BALTIMORE – Hall of Fame trainers Bob Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas are in a position to deliver performances of historical significance Saturday in the 143rd running of the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course.
Baffert and Lukas, both of whom came out of Quarter Horse racing and attained greatness with Thoroughbreds, each have six Preakness wins and are tied for second place on the all-time list, one behind Robert Wyndham Walden. In addition, Baffert’s 2½-length victory with Justified in the Kentucky Derby on May 5 was his 13th Triple Crown victory, putting him in a tie with Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, one behind Lukas’ record of 14. Fitzsimmons, whose training career spanned 1894 to 1963, won the Preakness four times and is the only trainer to twice sweep the Triple Crown.
Baffert, 65, is scheduled to start Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Justify, while Lukas, 82, is planning to saddle two runners: Bravazo, who was sixth in the Derby, and Sporting Chance, who was fourth in the Pat Day Mile (G3) on the Derby undercard. If both horses go to the gate, it will be the 13th time Lukas has had two or more starters in a Preakness.
A star in the 19th century and elected to the Hall of Fame in 1970, Walden – known best by his middle name – completed his run of seven Preakness winners 130 years ago in 1888. He won seven of 13 runnings of the Preakness beginning in 1875 and had a record five-straight wins from 1878 through 1882. All five in the streak were owned by sportsman and magnate George Lorillard.
Walden owned and operated Bowling Brook Farm in nearby Middleburg, Md. and was on one of the pre-eminent horsemen of his time. He also won the Belmont Stakes four times and his son, also named Robert, won the 1899 Kentucky Derby with Manuel.
Baffert made his Preakness debut in 1996 with Cavonnier, who was fourth at Pimlico after losing the Derby by a nose to Grindstone. He has saddled a total of 18 horses in 16 editions of the Preakness and in addition to his six wins, he has one second and one third. His Preakness earnings are a record $4.4 million.
After a rare absence in 2017, Baffert returns to Baltimore with unbeaten Justify, and will try to extend a personal streak of completing the Derby-Preakness double for the fifth time. Baffert, who has never lost with his Derby star at Pimlico, opened that run with Silver Charm in 1997 and continued on with Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002) and with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in 2015. His other Preakness victories came in 2001 with Point Given, who was fifth in the Derby, and 2010 with Lookin At Lucky, who finished sixth in the Derby after drawing the rail, a difficult post that has not yielded a Derby winner since Ferdinand in 1986.
Lukas won with his first Preakness starter, Codex, in 1980, defeating the Derby-winning filly Genuine Risk in a highly controversial race. Many Observers felt that jockey Angel Cordero Jr. was far too aggressive in the stretch and carried Kentucky Derby winner Genuine Risk wide, inhibiting her chances of winning. She was second by 4 ¾ lengths. Lukas has started a record 41 horses in 27 editions of the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. He also has one second and five third-place finishes. His other winners were Tank’s Prospect (1985); Tabasco Cat (1994); Timber Country (1995); Charismatic (1999); and Oxbow (2013).