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Horse Racing Profile: Trainer D. Wayne Lukas

By Tim Sullivan

Excluding an operation for a ruptured disc, and an insurance physical arranged to appease investors, D. Wayne Lukas has devoted his life to avoiding doctors.

“I shouldn’t say this,” the venerable thoroughbred horse trainer said, “and I don’t say it boastfully, but I haven’t been to a doctor in 50 years. I don’t get a checkup or nothing, which is not good. I don’t go to doctors (because) they might tell you something you don’t want to know.”

If time is gaining on Lukas at age 78, he remains determined to give it a run for its money and with a vision that bespeaks blinders.

His permanent home is in Lake Forest. His primary stable is at Churchill Downs. But Lukas continues to migrate from meet to meet, training horses at inhuman hours, riding in the most daunting conditions and pursuing immortality with a minimum of medical advice.

His stated goals are to draw his last breath while falling out of the saddle, and to chase the Triple Crown that narrowly eluded him with Charismatic in 1999. He had won 4,683 races and had accumulated nearly $267 million in career earnings when the Oaklawn Park meet opened Friday afternoon in Hot Springs, Ark., but he continues to cling to horse racing as he was unable to do with four wives. Fifteen years after his induction into thoroughbred racing’s Hall of Fame, Lukas’ achievements and ambitions still run neck and neck.

“I’m probably as intense or maybe more so than I was earlier in my career for the simple reason that earlier in my career, I always thought there was going to be another good one,” he said. “Now, I’m more appreciative of the Will Take Charges, the Oxbows, the Strong Mandates that come along.”

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