Five-time Preakness winner D. Wayne Lukas arrived at Pimlico Race Course with his three-horse contingent of Oxbow, Titletown Five and Will Take Charge at 4:55 p.m. Tuesday.
The trio arrived at Pimlico following a 12 ½-hour van ride from Churchill Downs. Also arriving Tuesday from Monmouth Park was Itsmyluckyday.
“They’re better than I am probably. It’s a long little trip.” said the 77-year-old Hall of Fame trainer, who rode in one of the two vans that transported his three hopefuls for Saturday’s Preakness Stakes and six other horses from Kentucky.
Will Take Charge and Oxbow, the eighth- and sixth-place Kentucky Derby finishers, respectively, walked off the first trailer. Titletown Five emerged from the second, and all three looked no worse for wear. Both Oxbow and Will Take Charge are coming back on two weeks of rest after solid performances at Churchill Downs on May 4.
“We’re here in pretty good shape,” said Lukas, who dismissed any notion that through numbers alone he might be in control of the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown with three of the nine probable starters.
“I don’t think I’m in control unless Shug scratches,” Lukas said, referring to Shug McGaughey, trainer of Kentucky Derby winner Orb. “If he’ll scratch, I’ll feel better about the whole race. That’s an exceptional horse, and in great hands. It’s going to be difficult to beat him. His work this week was great, and I know Shug’s very confident with him.”
Oxbow worked at Churchill on Monday for jockey Gary Stevens, going four furlongs in 49 4/5 seconds. Will Take Charge went in 48 1/5 seconds in his final workout for the Preakness. He gets a rider switch to Mike Smith for the Preakness.
Stevens (Point Given, Silver Charm) and Smith (Prairie Bayou) have three winners in the Preakness between them.
Titletown Five, owned by a group that includes Paul Hornung and Willie Davis of Green Bay Packers fame, ran fourth in the Derby Trial on April 27. A win might have sent the son of Tiznow onto the Derby, but that became a moot point when he failed to qualify under the new points system.
Oxbow won the LeComte (G3) in January at Fair Grounds and was second in the Rebel behind Will Take Charge at Oaklawn before finishing a troubled fifth in the Arkansas Derby. Will Take Charge’s other win this year came in the ungraded Smarty Jones at Oaklawn on Jan. 21.
“I think we’ll be effective,” Lukas told Maryland Jockey Club Publicity. “You can’t mail it in. It’s a different surface, a shorter race, the configuration of the track’s a little bit different. You have to run uphill at the end of it. I think we’re learning a little bit about them (his three horses) every time. If you look at the aerial view of the Derby, Will Take Charge ran one hell of a race.”
Lukas has started 37 runners in the Preakness and won in his first attempt with Codex in 1980. His last winner was Charismatic in 1999 after scores by Tank’s Prospect (1985), Tabasco Cat (1994) and Timber Country (1995). Titletown Five would be the first colt to win in which Lukas had a share of the ownership as well.
Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa’s Preakness hopeful Itsmyluckyday arrived by van from Monmouth Park at 2:30 Tuesday afternoon. The Gulfstream Park Derby and Holy Bull (G3) winner, who finished 15th in the Kentucky Derby, was accompanied on the ride to Pimlico by assistant trainer Frankie Perez.
“Everything went good. He’s so professional. Nothing bothers him,” said Perez, who has worked for trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. for 20 years.