Lukas Looking To Even Score With Baffert In Preakness 146

Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas will attempt to win a record-tying seventh Preakness Stakes (G1) as he runs Christina Baker and Bill Mack’s 3-year-old Ram in the 146th running of the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown next Saturday at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md.

A victory would pull the 85-year-old Lukas even with Bob Baffert and 19th century Mid-Atlantic training icon Robert Wyndham Walden as the winningest Preakness trainers. Lukas’ first Preakness came in 1980 with his first Triple Crown starter, Codex. His last came in 2013 with Oxbow, whose Preakness victory gave Lukas the lead in Triple Crown races-won with 14, a number his pal Baffert blew by in 2015 with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, who coincidentally is Ram’s sire. (Medina Spirit’s victory in the 2021 Derby upped Baffert’s Triple Crown total to 17 wins.)

Lukas said he and Mack made the decision to run Ram in the Preakness during a phone conversation Friday evening. Ram won his second-straight race while taking the mile allowance race that kicked off the May 1 Kentucky Derby (G1) card at Churchill Downs. Ricardo Santana Jr. picks up the mount.

“We realize he has to step forward to be effective,” Lukas said Saturday morning after Ram trained at Churchill Downs. “But when these horses are doing well, sometimes they’ll step up and do what you want them to do. I always thought this horse had potential. He was immature; he’s a May 13 foal. I bought him as a yearling. I liked him then. He was a little bit feminine, which I like. I gave him plenty of time, waiting for him to come around.”

If Ram should pull off the shocker in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness, it would be Lukas’ biggest upset in a long career where he’s made some champions by taking chances. Ram, a $375,000 yearling, won on his eighth attempt, coming in a $50,000 maiden-claiming race at Oaklawn Park.

Still, consider that Charismatic, Lukas’ 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, twice ran in $62,500 claiming races, including when the horse broke his maiden on his sixth attempt, before blossoming into a dual-classic winner. Charismatic was running in stakes races, including taking Keeneland’s Lexington (G2), before his Derby triumph at 31-1 odds. The Preakness will be Ram’s first start in a stakes.

Lukas long has been an ambassador for the Preakness, extolling the atmosphere and Maryland Jockey Club’s hospitality.

“I don’t know if it’s the camaraderie of all being in same barn, it just seems that people loosen up a little bit,” he said. “Take a little off their fastball for that one. They don’t get so caught up like the Derby. It seems like everybody exhales after the Derby. It’s just fun.

“… I don’t have any grandiose ideas, but I think I could surprise some people how well this horse runs,” Lukas added. “I think the horses that ran in the Derby had a hard race. Ram had the most perfect prep for the Preakness you could have. He rated kindly behind those horses, circled them five, six wide and went off and won. Now whether that equates to a big Preakness, I don’t know. But I wouldn’t change a thing about his prep. I know it moved him forward. He’s a better horse after that race. That entered my thinking big time…. And Santana is a strong finisher, and I think that will help me.”

Lukas said he plans to van Ram and his pony Riff to Baltimore on Monday. As usual, Lukas will be riding shotgun and keeping the satellite radio tuned to Willie’s Roadhouse. Speaking of On the Road Again …

“I don’t know how many more of these I’ll have,” Lukas said, adding with a big smile, “But I do have a good 2-year-old.”

The post Lukas Looking To Even Score With Baffert In Preakness 146 appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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