D. Wayne Lukas on historic Derby weekend: ‘You can’t make that up’

Before Lukas won the Oaks with Secret Oath on Friday, he scratched Ethereal Road from the Derby that morning, making way for Derby winner Rich Strike to make th
Published: May. 10, 2022 at 5:28 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Underneath D. Wayne Lukas’ cowboy hat are 86 years of experience, but even he could not have predicted how the ‘22 Kentucky Derby weekend would play out.

“You can’t make that up,” Lukas said. “Maybe in Hollywood they have a script that some guy writes, but this was reality.”

For Lukas, that reality played out over two days, starting Friday, when his filly Secret Oath galloped to glory in the Kentucky Oaks. The horse’s win gave Lukas a record-tying 5th Kentucky Oaks win, his first in 32 years.

“I enjoy it with my wife very much, you know, when we win these big ones,” Lukas said. “And then I feel really, really good if I can put the owners in that situation and give them that experience. That’s what I’m getting paid to do, to take the horses to that level and have them have that great experience.”

Lukas also had his fingerprints on the Kentucky Derby, though Saturday’s touch was more accidental than anything else. Rich Strike was an 80-1 long shot, and the only reason he was in the field of 20 was because Lukas pulled out of the race, scratching his horse Ethereal Road Friday morning right before the deadline.

It was a coincidence that unlocked a historic opportunity.

“You can’t make this stuff up,” Lukas said. “It’s just crazy and when you look at that horse’s form and its past performances, there is no way to justify or figure that this could happen.”

While Lukas trained his horses at Barn 44 on Tuesday morning, the Garland of Lillies lay wilted nearby. The flowers serve as a symbol of another accomplishment under his belt and another feather in his cowboy hat, and another weekend of experience to carry with him on the journey to the Preakness Stakes.

“Here’s the deal, there’s no how-to book,” Lukas said. “But the older you get and the more you do it, you should get better at it. So it has come a lot easier for me in the last 20 years than it did when I was 40…30 or 40. It’s now a lot easier. So, I see it clearly. I see what I need to do. I think I’m in touch with the horses a lot more than I used to be, because of the experience factor. So when it comes together, it’s very, very gratifying.”

Lukas said Secret Oath’s health and the rest of the Preakness field will play a role in his decision to enter the horse in the race.

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