D. Wayne Lukas is the most successful trainer in the history of American thoroughbred racing, but you wouldn't know that from his record these last few years. Coming into this year's Breeders' Cup, he hadn't trained a star horse or won anything all that meaningful in years. Actually, that isn't that surprising. This is a sport that loves the flavor of the month and is quick to abandon those who haven't done much for anyone lately, especially 77-year-olds who haven't done much for anyone lately.
But underestimating Lukas can be foolish. He's been down on numerous occasions and had roared back on numerous occasions. For him, the next six months or so we be all about proving he's got at least one more run at glory in him, and it begins Saturday at Delta Downs.
Hightail, a starter in the $1 million Delta Jackpot, is a Breeders' Cup winner, Lukas' first since Folklore won the Juvenile Fillies in 2005. But he is atypical for a Breeders' Cup winner. He came into the race as a maiden, got a perfect trip in the Juvenile Sprint and won what was the worst Breeders' Cup race in history by a nose. Chances are, he's not that good and will get drubbed by better horses in the $1 million event.
WAYNE LUKAS: "At my age it's significant. I don't know how many there are, but I always thought we could get one more. But I still have the passion for it and I train every day and ride every day and if they will give us something to work with we got a chance and we have a great owner in Mr.Brad Kelley who wants to be in the main arena as well as I do.
"It's exciting. I don't know if I got that excited in some of the previous ones. I got my grandson here with me from the Air Force Academy and it's just special. It will be that way all day long for everybody and it is the Breeders' Cup and it is the championship series, and it has to mean everything. You've beaten the best that show up on that day."
Bill Finley is an award-winning racing writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and Sports Illustrated. Contact him at email@example.com.