(Trainer D. Wayne Lukas at Churchill Downs / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

From the Pimlico Media Team:

Lukas: Preakness Hero Seize the Grey ‘Likely’ for Belmont Stakes

Preakness Runner-Up Mystik Dan Headed to Spa But No Belmont Decision

Early Sunday morning, 11 hours after Seize the Grey delivered his Hall of Fame trainer his seventh victory in the Preakness Stakes (G1), age-defying D. Wayne Lukas, 88, was, per usual, looking ahead.

Lukas said that it was likely that the colt with 2,750 owners in the MyRacehorse partnership, would run in the Belmont Stakes (G1) June 8 at Saratoga Race Course. After talking about how Seize the Grey, under jockey Jaime Torres, led the $2 million Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown from gate to wire over the muddy track at Pimlico to beat Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mystik Dan by 2 ¼, lengths, Lukas was touting his group of 2-year-olds. He said the crop of talent included about nine from top sires, Justify, Into Mischief and Gun Runner.

One of Lukas’ early morning visitors promptly asked him if he expected to be sitting in the same place, at the end of the stakes barn, next year, reflecting on another Preakness score.

“You’re damn right,” Lukas said. “If not, they need to fire me. I’ve got plenty to work with.”

Five years ago, it looked like Lukas’ record-breaking career was in a quiet fade. His stable won 15 races that season. In 2019, its earnings barely exceeded $1 million. Always the optimist and salesman, Lukas found new owners to invest in a legend. His comeback to prominence began in 2022 and with plenty of high-price talent in his program he is aiming at more victories in major races.

Seize the Grey’s victory was his first Preakness win since his score with Calumet Farm’s Oxbow in 2013 and his second Triple Crown series victory since Commendable won the 2000 Belmont Stakes. He won his first of 15 Triple Crown races beginning with Codex in the 1980 Preakness in the 20th century. Lukas is tied with 19th century horseman Robert Wyndham Walden in Preakness wins, one behind Bob Baffert.

Lukas chuckled as he discussed the addition of a 15th Triple Crown race win, second only to Baffert’s 17, to his resume.

“I needed to bounce back and get another one. One of the things that surprised me is they told me it was 10 or 11 years since Oxbow. I didn’t think it was that long. Doesn’t seem that long.”

Seize the Grey completed the 1 3/16 miles in 1:56.82 and paid $21.60.

While Seize the Grey probably will continue on to the Belmont Stakes, Lukas’ other Preakness starter, Just Steel, is headed to surgery in Kentucky to repair a condylar fracture of his right foreleg.

“We’ve got to put a pin in it,” Lukas said. “He’ll be all right.”

After the extent of the injury was diagnosed, Lukas changed plans to ship his seven runners back to Kentucky on Sunday morning.

Lukas speculated that the injury might have taken place as the field was turning for home. Lukas figured that Just Steel, running fourth under Joel Rosario, was in position to challenge his stablemate.

“He was perfectly placed,” Lukas said. “There was a point there in the race that I thought we would be 1-2. I really thought that Just Steel was going to run at this horse and make it interesting. Obviously, that hampered any strong finish. But he was right there and Joel came off that turn and I said, ‘Whoa, we’re going, to get a lot of this. I really felt like we’d be 1-2 at that point.”

Lukas said Seize the Grey looked and acted well Sunday morning.

“When he came out of the stall and went around here he never walked,” Lukas said. “He was pretty proud of himself.”

Though Mystik Dan turned in another solid performance under jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., Seize the Grey would not be caught. Lukas said he did not have much time to talk with Torres about strategy before the race. When the jockey, making his first appearance in a Triple Crown race, went right to the lead, Lukas said he was afraid Seize the Grey might be going too fast. Lukas said he relaxed a bit when he saw the half-mile time of 47.33 seconds and realized that Seize the Grey was handling the surface.

“I thought when they’re going down the backside that it would be very hard to catch him,” Lukas said. “The one thing that really surprised me, though, is when I walked across the track after the race, I was amazed at how deep and sticky it was. Watching them run over it, the way he did it, I thought he just skipped over it.”

Lukas said he feared the Derby winner, who had romped in the Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn Park on a sealed muddy track.

“I was very concerned about Mystik Dan,” Lukas said. “I thought the way he ran in Arkansas in the mud, I told Baffert, ‘Bob we’re going to have a hell of a time out-running that horse the way this track coming up.’ I didn’t realize it was it like peanut butter. It damn near pulled my boots off. It was pretty deep. Watching him on the replay the way he skipped over it, how we got over was admirable. I mean, he owned it.”

For Lukas, the big stages of the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup have always been his goal. That hasn’t changed. Yet, he typically doesn’t celebrate those achievements.

“I’m very bad about that,” he said. “We win one and my son (Jeff) used to always say, ‘Why don’t you enjoy it a little bit?’ I’d say, ‘Where’s the next one? We better get some plans made for the next one.’”

That next one will take place in three weeks at historic Saratoga Race Course. The final leg of the Triple Crown will be run at the Spa this year and next while the New York Racing Association does a massive rebuild of Belmont Park. Since it is not practical to run a 1 ½ miles race on the 1 1/8-mile Saratoga course, the Belmont will be run at 1 ¼ miles during its time at America’s oldest track.

“It’s a whole different deal,” Lukas said. I want to get a hold of the race secretary and see how this thing will shake out and what the deal is. We’ll get new faces. There are some guys sitting in the wings. I’m sure that Todd (Pletcher) and Chad (Brown), with the depth they’ve got in their stables will be involved. The fact that it’s a mile and a quarter, I think it makes it more enticing.”

Although disappointed that Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan was unable to secure the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, trainer Kenny McPeek was astonished by trainer D. Wayne Lukas’ historic achievement Saturday at Pimlico.

“He is amazing. He is super human. I don’t see myself, at 88, doing what he is doing. No shot,” said McPeek, whose Derby winner checked in second behind Seize the Grey, Sunday morning. “He is fearless, and I think that is why he wins races like this. He has done it many times because he is so fearless. I have done it a few times myself, but not at the level he has done it.”

Hall of Famer Bob Baffert was equally in awe of his fellow Hall of Famer’s seventh Preakness Stakes success with Seize the Grey.

“You want to see a horse go for the Triple Crown. That would have been great. The next best thing is Wayne winning one of these. He is creeping up on me,” said Baffert, who came up short of a record-extending ninth Preakness when Imagination faded to seventh. “Wayne loves his job. Every day is a new day to him. Every time I talk to him, he says he has a good 2-year-old on the farm. He is still competitive, and this is a good feeling. If I am going to get beat in one of these races, I want to see Wayne win it. He is still a great trainer. He had the best horse.”

Knowing how difficult it is to win just one Preakness, trainer Brad Cox, who saddled Catching Freedom for a third-place finish behind Seize the Gray, has a special appreciation for Lukas’ enduring success.

“Unbelievable. Amazing. I’m half his age and still trying to get the Preakness for the first time at 44. Naw, it’s all good. I joke with Wayne. I think he was 40 when he won his first Grade 1 race. It was the year I was born. It’s amazing,” Cox said. “I said it before the Derby: ‘Triple Crown races are better when Wayne’s in ’em.’ I wish he hadn’t been in this one, though.”

Preakness Runner-Up Mystic Dan Headed to Spa But No Belmont Decision

The morning after the 149th Preakness Stakes (G1), the commotion had died down at the Preakness Stakes Barn at Pimlico Race Course. The hustle and bustle of the previous week was gone as several horses had vacated their stalls and headed to new – or in some cases old – destinations.

Trainer Kenny McPeek, accompanied by his trusty yellow Labrador, Sonny, arrived just after 7:30 Sunday morning. He sat on a trunk just outside of the stall of Mystik Dan, who had run a gallant second in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

Owned by Michael Milam and LC Racing LLC, Mystik Dan and jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. finished 2 ¼ lengths behind Seize the Grey in the Preakness and a head in front of Catching Freedom.

There was some sadness that the Kentucky Derby (G1) winner did not capture the Preakness and keep his hopes alive for a Triple Crown, but there was no disappointment.

“It’s impossible to be disappointed about being involved with these kind of races and be competitive,” McPeek said. “One, they are hard races to get into, but to be competitive in them is a big deal. You just do your job and hope it’s your turn.”

McPeek said Mystik Dan came out of the race fine. He walked the shedrow Sunday and then grazed.

“He’s probably fresher than we are,” McPeek said.

The next stop for him will be Saratoga. McPeek said he will ship to the Spa “probably” Monday. Whether or not he runs in the Belmont Stakes (G1) at the Spa June 8 is another matter.

McPeek said he will wait “a week, 10 days, two weeks” before making a decision on that.

After having 12 hours to digest the Preakness, McPeek gave all credit to Seize the Grey and his Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. However, being honest, McPeek did not have him on his radar heading into the Preakness.

“I was worried about Catching Freedom (who finished third), (Bob) Baffert’s horse (Imagination, 7th) and maybe Chad’s (Brown) horse (Tuscan Gold, 4th),” McPeek said. “I did not think Seize the Grey was a horse that could beat us. He ran great. Even on the gallop out, no one could run him down.”