Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas made history at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday when he saddled Oxbow for a front-running upset victory in the 138th Preakness Stakes (G1).
The 15-1 long shot gave his 77-year-old trainer a sixth Preakness victory, as well as his 14th triumph in a Triple Crown event. The victory also abruptly ended Orb’s hopes for a Triple Crown, keeping safe for another year Florida-bred Affirmed’s claim as the last horse to have swept the series.
Lukas, who had been tied with legendary “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons since saddling Commendable for a Belmont Stakes victory in 2000, became the winningest trainer in Triple Crown history.
Overlooked by the bettors, who made Kentucky Derby winner Orb their 3-5 favorite in the field of nine 3-year-olds, Oxbow was in control throughout the 1 3/16-mile Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown on his way to victory by 1 ¾ lengths under Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens.
“What a story this is. I’m happy for Gary (Stevens) and I’m just so happy for Mr. (Brad) Kelley,” said Lukas. “He’s trying to revitalize Calumet, and now Calumet is back in a Classic race. That’s just very gratifying. It’s been a while (Charismatic, 1999), but it never gets old. I have great respect for the Phipps family and Shug (McGaughey), but I was telling one of your colleagues that I get paid to spoil dreams.
“You can’t mail them in, so we keep trying,” he added. “It’s a different surface, a different scenario and a different time. You gotta line ‘em up and run ‘em.”
Oxbow, who finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby, joined the Lukas-trained Codex (1980), Tank’s Prospect (1985), Tabasco Cat (1994), Timber Country (1995) and Charismatic (1999) as a Preakness champion.
“We talked about strategy and I didn’t expect to be on the lead,” said Stevens. “In these Classic races you don’t give up anything you get for free. They gave me a free three-quarters of a mile today. I was smiling pretty good midway down the backside. I actually thought about Wayne (Lukas) up in the grandstand. I knew he would be looking at those fractions and be pleased with what he was seeing.
“I jumped on him at the quarter pole and said, “let’s go now and just try and last.’ We did more than last today. When we pulled up he wasn’t a tired horse.”
Shug McGaughey-trained Orb, who finished 9 ¾ lengths ahead of Oxbow while winning the Derby by 3 ½ lengths, was never a factor in the Preakness, finishing nine lengths behind the winner. Orb broke cleanly, raced in tight quarters around the far turn and never punched it in under Joel Rosario.
“I’m disappointed. It was a great opportunity,” said Mcgaughey. “We were 3-5 and we finished fourth. I would be disappointed any time you had this kind of opportunity and didn’t get it done. This was quite a run for a couple of weeks. We’ll pack it up and go back home and see what kind of horse we’ve got down the road and figure it out from there.
“I don’t think two weeks had anything to do with it,” he added. “Oxbow ran back in two weeks. Itsmyluckyday ran back in two weeks, Mylute ran back in two weeks. I just think he got himself in a position where he wasn’t comfortable and then without the pace scenario in front of him; they really weren’t spread out a little bit more than maybe I’d hoped. That probably affected him more than anything else.”
A crowd of 117,203 packed into Pimlico, the fourth highest attendance mark in the history of the event. The day included the fifth annual InfieldFest which featured concerts by six bands, including headliners Pitbull and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. The 13-race card generated an all-sources handle of $81,940,233. The handle ranked as the sixth best for Pimlico’s signature day.
Oxbow’s triumph also created history for Stevens, who became the oldest jockey, at 50, to ride a Preakness winner. Eldon Nelson was 45 when he rode Bee Bee Bee to an upset win in 1972.
The Lukas-trained winner, who ran 1 3/16 miles in 1:57.54, also made more history for his owner, Calumet Farm, which celebrated its record eighth Preakness success and first since Forward Pass’s victory in 1968.
Itsmyluckyday, who had finished 15th in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, finished second Saturday while tracking the pace early and steadily gaining on Oxbow in the stretch before running out of ground. Mylute, the fifth-place Derby finisher, closed from last to finish third, another half-length back under Rosie Napravnik, who rode the first winner of her career at Pimlico in June 2005 as a 17-year-old.
Orb, the shortest-priced Preakness favorite since Big Brown (2008), finished a half-length ahead of Goldencents, who was saddled by Doug O’Neill, who visited the winners’ circle last year with I’ll Have Another. He was followed by Departing, Will Take Charge, Govenor Charlie and Titletown Five. Will Take Charge and Titletown Five are also trained by Lukas, who has been represented by a record 40 Preakness starters.