It may have been his fifth time winning the Preakness Stakes, but Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas didn't feel any less happy than if it had been the first time.
Lukas, a 14-time winner of Triple Crown races, is now getting Preakness winner Oxbow and Will Take Charge prepared for the 145th Belmont Stakes on June 8. But the excitement of winning the second leg of racing's Triple Crown was still with the 77-year-old conditioner five days later.
"It's always fun to win one of those and it's what we all get up for and try to achieve," he said. "It validated my belief in the horse, too. I always thought he had an unfortunate spring with the way he kept drawing and getting parked outside. To see it all come full cycle, especially with Gary (Stevens) in the irons, it was really gratifying."
Oxbow came into the Preakness as a 15-1 longshot after posting a sixth-place finish to Orb in the Kentucky Derby and a fifth in the Arkansas Derby.
Racing on the lead with little pressure from his rivals, Oxbow registered a 1 3/4-length victory over Itsmyluckyday to make Lukas the top trainer in Triple Crown history. The win broke the tie he had with another Hall of Fame trainer, "Sunny" Jim Fitzsimmons.
"I never dwelt on the record too much," Lukas said. "I think the most significant thing for me was to be in the same company with Sunny Fitzsimmons. I found it interesting that he won his last (Triple Crown race) at 82. He meant so much to the industry, so to be with him all those years was enough for me.
"I think I enjoyed it every bit as much as my first and maybe more. It stirred up a lot of old relationships and friendships. I got hundreds of voicemails and texts. It's special to have so many people come forward. There were a lot of people pulling for us."
Lukas' first Triple Crown race win happened to come in the 1980 Preakness with Codex. Five years later, he captured the middle jewel of the series again with Tank's Prospect and in 1988 won the Kentucky Derby for the first time with the filly Winning Colors.
His initial Belmont Stakes victory was with Tabasco Cat in 1994, which was quickly followed by Thunder Gulch (1995) and Editor's Note (1996).
In 1999, Lukas won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness with Charismatic. A year later, he claimed his most recent Belmont Stakes with Commendable.
"It's been a while, but it never gets old," stated Lukas after winning this year's Preakness.
Stevens will go for his fourth Belmont Stakes victory aboard Oxbow. The Hall of Fame rider came off a seven-year retirement in January and is now back at the top of the racing game.
"It's so special," Stevens said after winning his third Preakness. "Wayne supported me, put me on my first Triple Crown winner (Winning Colors). A lot of people were trying to get me off. He was the first guy to call me up in January, 'I'm gonna have a colt for you, his name's Oxbow.'"
Lukas and Stevens, a pair of Hall of Fame members together again with the energy of a couple of 3-year-old colts.