Lukas to get Eclipse Award of Merit on Saturday

TIM REYNOLDS (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press
Lukas to get Eclipse Award of Merit on Saturday
Lukas to get Eclipse Award of Merit on Saturday

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- There isn't much left for D. Wayne Lukas to win in thoroughbred racing.

He's saddled nearly 5,000 winners, his trainees have earned more than $250 million in purse money on tracks around the world, and no one in the sport's history has won more Triple Crown races than his 14.

And on Saturday night, his peers across racing will take notice of his life's work, once again. Lukas will receive the Eclipse Award of Merit - the game's lifetime achievement award - at horse racing's annual award ceremony, part of a show at Gulfstream Park where Horse of the Year and other top honors will be handed out.

''In light of the people who have received this award in the past, it is humbling and special to me and coming from so many of those who I admire in this industry,'' Lukas said in a news release announcing the award, released earlier this month. ''I've won a few Eclipse Awards in my career but this is the center accomplishment.''

By now, he's won a few of just about everything in his career.

He's won the Eclipse as the sport's best trainer four times, has trained 24 Eclipse-winning horses and three of those have been Horse of the Year. When it comes to Breeders' Cup race victories, he stands alone there too, heading to the winner's circle 19 times in those events as well, and counting. To put those 19 wins in some perspective, that's as many as any other two trainers in the sport's history have - combined.

His style is one that is often mimicked now, in every aspect from how to train even to how to dress. To this day, Lukas stands out on race day with his tailored suits and super-crisp shirts, looking more suited for Wall Street than the backstretch.

''No one is more deserving of this award,'' said longtime trainer Todd Pletcher, a Lukas protege. ''Wayne set the bar for so many of us and I am grateful to have been a part of his team. His tutelage is responsible for the successes I and many of my colleagues share today. The fact that he is still winning Classics after over three decades since his first Classic win and still wakes up at the crack of dawn with such a passion for the game speaks volumes.''

Pletcher is among three finalists for the Eclipse trainer award this year, joining Bob Baffert and Bill Mott. This will be the 12th time in the last 19 years that one of those trainers has captured that year-end honor.

Javier Castellano, Joel Rosario and Gary Stevens are the finalists for the Eclipse in the jockey category, and in the Horse of the Year category, Wise Dan is in line for top honors for a second straight year.

Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge - who finished first and second, respectively, in the Breeders' Cup Classic - are the other finalists. Wise Dan won the Breeders' Cup Mile for the second straight season.

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