Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has a more relaxed attitude about the Kentucky Derby at this late stage of his Hall of Fame career.
Lukas has won the Derby four times, among a record 14 Triple Crown victories. Now 79, Lukas takes another Derby swing Saturday with long-shot Mr. Z.
The best that can be said for Mr. Z is that Lukas is in his corner. The colt is 1 for 12, finishing a distant third behind American Pharoah — the likely Derby favorite — in the Arkansas Derby.
”The reality of the deal is that he has to improve a lot,” Lukas said. ”I think he’s a good, solid horse in a year when there are exceptional horses. I think he belongs, but I don’t have any grandiose ideas that he’s going to waltz around there. It is the Kentucky Derby, it is a $2 million purse, so we’ll try and get a piece of it.”
With the pressure off, Lukas is able to savor the scene.
”I enjoy it,” he said. ”I enjoy the camaraderie but I have a whole different perspective than I did probably 25 years ago. I can stand back and watch this thing unfold and watch the young guys do things I wouldn’t, but I probably did when I was 25-years-old.”
While his last Derby win was in 1999 with Charismatic, Lukas still believes there is one more with his name on it.
”The passion is still there as much as it’s ever been,” he said. ”I’d really like at this point in my career to get a couple of more. The problem is, I used to have more numbers.”
However, to be in the Derby at this stage brings its own rewards.