D. Wayne Lukas arrived at Pimlico Race Course with his three-horse contingent of Oxbow , Titletown Five, and Will Take Charge at 4:55 p.m. May 14 following a 12 1/2-hour van ride from Churchill Downs. The Hall of Fame trainer will saddle all three for the May 18 Preakness Stakes (gr. I), the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.
"They're better than I am, probably. It's a long little trip," said the 77-year-old trainer and five-time Preakness winner. Lukas rode in one of the two vans that transported his three hopefuls for the Preakness and six other horses from Kentucky.
Willis D. Horton's Will Take Charge and Calumet Farm's Oxbow, the eighth- and sixth-place finishers in the May 4 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), respectively, walked off the first trailer. Titletown Five, who races for Paul Hornung, Ed Martin, Willie Davis, and Lukas, emerged from the second, and all three looked no worse for wear. Both Oxbow and Will Take Charge are coming back on two weeks of rest after solid performances at Churchill Downs.
"We're here in pretty good shape," said Lukas, who dismissed any notion that through numbers alone he might be in control of the Preakness with three of the nine probable starters.
"I don't think I'm in control unless Shug scratches," Lukas said, referring to Shug McGaughey, trainer of Derby winner Orb . "If he'll scratch, I'll feel better about the whole race. That's an exceptional horse, and in great hands. It's going to be difficult to beat him. His work this week was great, and I know Shug's very confident with him."
Oxbow worked at Churchill May 13 for jockey Gary Stevens, going four furlongs in :49 4/5. Will Take Charge went in :48 1/5 in his final workout for the Preakness. He gets a rider switch to Mike Smith for the Preakness.
Titletown Five (Tiznow —D'Wildcat Speed, by Forest Wildcat) ran fourth in the Derby Trial Stakes (gr. III) April 27. A win might have sent him on to the Derby, but that became a moot point when he failed to qualify under the new points system.
Oxbow, by Awesome Again , won the Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) in January at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots and was second in the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) behind Will Take Charge at Oaklawn Park before finishing a troubled fifth in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I). Will Take Charge's other win this year came in the ungraded Jan. 21 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn. He ran in the Derby off a seven-week layoff.
"I think we'll be effective," Lukas said. "You can't mail it in. It's a different surface, a shorter race, the configuration of the track's a little bit different. You have to run uphill at the end of it. I think we're learning a little bit about them (his three horses) every time. If you look at the aerial view of the Derby, Will Take Charge ran one hell of a race."
Lukas has started 37 runners in the Preakness and won in his first attempt with Codex in 1980. His last winner was Charismatic in 1999 after scores by Tank's Prospect (1985), Tabasco Cat (1994), and Timber Country (1995). Titletown Five would be the first colt to win in which Lukas had a share of the ownership as well.
Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa's Preakness hopeful Itsmyluckyday arrived by van from Monmouth Park at 2:30 p.m. The Gulfstream Park Derby and Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) winner, who finished 15th in the Kentucky Derby, was accompanied on the ride to Pimlico by assistant trainer Frankie Perez.
"Everything went good. He's so professional. Nothing bothers him," said Perez, who has worked for trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. for 20 years.