BALTIMORE — In his familiar spot, at the far end of the stakes barn at Pimlico, D. Wayne Lukas sits and observes. Just like he’s been doing for decades.
"I enjoy this. This is always good. I’ve been sitting in this chair for 42 years. I ran the first one in 1980," said the hall of fame trainer.
There is some strategy behind his placement.
"I can scout opposition. It would be like sharing the locker room before the Super Bowl."
The 86-year-old is vying for his record-tying seventh Preakness win. He has started a record 45 horses in 30 Preaknesses. His entrant this year is the filly, Secret Oath.
"When she gets to a horse, if you ask her, she gets past them quick. She accelerates. That makes her very, very tough to beat," he said. "A filly in the race adds a lot of charisma and a lot of excitement. The other thing is it’s a smaller field. That helps us a lot. When they get down to eight or nine horses I think the race becomes more positive, more fair."
Not among the nine Preakness horses this year is the Kentucky Derby winner. Rich Strike is not running on Saturday. The surprise Derby winner’s team opted to skip the Preakness for the betterment of the horse. The two weeks in between races was just two short. Lukas thinks it could be time to change the Triple Crown schedule.
"Well, it’s hard to overcome traditions. The Derby is locked in. But if [the Preakness] was run on Memorial Day I think it would be a larger field, maybe a more competitive field and you might get more of the Derby horses. So, if you ran this one on Memorial Day and maybe ran the Belmont on the fourth of July I think it would make a lot more sense."
Until that happens, Lukas will just keep his usual spot at the stakes barn reserved for this time each May.
Secret Oath's morning line odds are 9-2.