Oxbow wins Preakness Stakes under 50-year-old Gary Stevens
GalleriesScenes from the 2013 Preakness Stakes
BALTIMORE -- You're upset because there won't be a Triple Crown sweep for the 35th consecutive year? Blame it on a couple of old guys.
A 50-year-old jockey, Gary Stevens, and a 77-year-old trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, derailed Kentucky Derby winner Orb, the 3-5 favorite, with front-running Oxbow, a 15-1 shot, Saturday in the 138th Preakness Stakes. There was no drama, because Orb never looked like a winner, finishing a lifeless fourth, nine lengths behind, under Joel Rosario. Oxbow beat Itsmyluckyday (8-1) by 1¾ lengths, and 10-1 Mylute, ridden by Rosie Napravnik, was third, half a length farther back, before a crowd of 117,203 at cool, damp Pimlico.
"I'm disappointed,'' Orb's trainer, Shug McGaughey, said, "and I'll probably be more disappointed tomorrow than I am right now. It's a game of highs and lows, mostly lows. My hat's off to Wayne and Gary.''
On a day that was supposed to belong to the old school, McGaughey and co-owners Ogden Mills Phipps and Stuart Janney III, the senior citizens Stevens and Lukas triumphed on the big stage for Calumet Farm, a great name from the past. It was Lukas' sixth Preakness win, one behind 19th century trainer R.W. Walden.
"I'm good friends with Shug, the Phippses and the Janneys,'' Lukas said. "But I get paid to spoil dreams.''
Four months after ending a seven-year retirement, Stevens won his third Preakness. After distinguishing himself as an actor in "Seabiscuit" and the HBO series "Luck,'' he is believed to be the first grandfather to ride a classic winner. Last year, he did commentary on the race for NBC; Saturday he was being interviewed on its first wire-to-wire winner since 1982. There could never be a script with these unprecedented twists.
"We talked about strategy and we didn't expect to be on the lead,'' Stevens said. "In these classic races you don't give up anything you get for free. They gave me a free three-quarters of a mile on the lead today.''
Last year on Preakness day, Lukas broke a 116-race slump in graded stakes. This time the sport's all-time leading money-winner set another record with his 14th Triple Crown trophy, passing Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, who trained 1957 Preakness winner Bold Ruler for Phipps' mother, Gladys Mills Phipps.
"Is this a great country or what?" the old Wisconsin cowboy said.
An hour earlier, Stevens led throughout the Dixie Handicap on 24-1 Skyring for Lukas and Calumet. In both stakes he slowed the pace and waited in front for competition that never arrived. Stevens felt sure the Preakness was over after coasting through a half-mile in 48.60 seconds and 6 furlongs in 1:13.26. The time of 1:57.54 for 1 3/16 miles was the slowest since 1961.
"I knew Wayne must have been looking at those fractions and been very pleased,'' Stevens said. "I pretty much rode Oxbow the same way I rode Skyring. When I hit the half-mile pole, I said, 'Are you kidding me? Is this happening?' The race was over at that point.
"I won with a little something left, believe it or not.''
Oxbow paid $32.80 and earned $600,000, raising his bankroll to $983,500 for Calumet, a long-ago breeding and racing dynasty that owner Brad Kelly has revived.
Lukas dominated the sport in the Eighties and Nineties, training the Horse of the Year three times -- Lady's Secret (1986), Criminal Type (1990) and Charismatic (1999). Starting with the 1994 Preakness, he won six consecutive Triple Crown events, taking the 1995 series with Thunder Gulch (Derby, Belmont) and Timber Country. But he hadn't won a classic since long shot Commendable's 2000 Belmont, and Lukas' national profile and winning percentage had drop- ped dramatically. He kept showing up for the big races, but his glory days seemed long gone.
"I thought maybe we'd win another one,'' Lukas said. "We got it done, but it's probably going to be on trivial pursuit in five minutes, but that's about it.
"I still enjoy doing this so much. I don't wake up every day anymore trying to prove I can train a racehorse. When you're younger, you keep trying to prove yourself.
"I'm very comfortable with where I'm at.''