The colt owned by historic Calument Farm will start from the No. 2 post under hall of fame jockey Gary Stevens, who at 50 made a comeback in January after eight years away.
Veteran jockeys or not, Lukas knows the race will be unpredictable. Both of his horses should be near the front early, which has so often been the case with his Derby runners.
“As trainers we’ll tell (the jockey) what we’d like to do,” he said, setting up a line that will forever be attached to his name. “But people have opinions and horses have the facts.
“What will happen is that they’ll do pretty much what they’re trained to do, what they’ve done. Usually the NCAA championship or the Super Bowl is decided by a team that does what it’s done well all season.”
A win would make Lukas the oldest trainer to win the Kentucky Derby, passing Charlie Whittingham (76). It could also rejuvenate a stable that has been in steady decline — albeit from heights few have ever reached. Lukas had 850 starters and more than $10 million in earnings in 2000. Last year, he earned less than $2.5 million with 285 starts.
Not that the lag appears to weigh on Lukas, who insists he’s given no thought of trotting away from training.
“I don’t know how many more of these I have guys,” he said, as fans gathered around a pack of reporters asking him questions. “Might only do this till I’m 90.”
Lukas spent nearly a decade teaching and coaching high school basketball, then another decade racing quarter horses. His success with thoroughbreds came quickly and was unprecedented: he became the first trainer to earn more than $100 million in earnings, leading the nation in that category in 14 different years.
He’s at least as well known for his cowboy hat paired with impeccable dress. And the jokes.