The Trainers' Trainer

D. Wayne Lukas has had impressive career on, off the track

His vast collection goes on display
at Kentucky Derby Museum

2018 Cover

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (December 2018) – For many sports fans in this generation, the name D. Wayne Lukas is synonymous with horse racing. Throughout his illustrious career in the stables and on the track, he helped mold many future horse trainers while building a long resume of winning race horses and jockeys. He also won the Kentucky Derby four times with Winning Colors (1988), Thunder Gulch (1995), Grindstone (1996) and Charismatic (1999).
So now at age 83, it was only fitting that his personal collection of horse racing memorabilia, trophies and awards be donated to the Kentucky Derby Museum and be used to create a new exhibit in a brand new, $6.5 million wing. The permanent exhibit officially opened to the public on Thursday, Nov. 1, following a formal ceremony the previous day that included many of Lukas’ fellow trainers – some of whom are considered his protégés. The list included trainers Todd Pletcher, Dallas Stewart and Michael Maker, among others. In addition to Lukas, Shoemaker’s daughter, Amanda Shoemaker, attended the grand opening reveal on Oct. 31 to represent the family. Shoemaker died in 2003.

• The Kentucky Derby Museum is located at 704 Central Ave., just outside the entrance to Churchill Downs.
• Hours: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday;
11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sunday
• Tickets: General admission $15 adults; $8 children. (New exhibits included in admission price)
• Information: (502) 637-1111 or visit www.DerbyMuseum.org

The opening also occurred on the first of the two-day Breeders’ Cup weekend, held this year at Churchill Downs on Nov. 1-2.
At the exhibit opening reveal event, Lukas was honored by the museum and the Breeders’ Cup by being presented with the Breeders’ Cup Sports & Racing Excellence Award. Other storied sports people who have received the award includes pro golfer Gary Player and NBC sports commentator Dick Enberg.
At the podium, Lukas said, “I was thinking the other day, when the champagne toast is over, the press meeting upstairs is over, the music dies, all your well-wishers and text messages pour in, and you’re in the quiet of your room, and you’re just by yourself, you’ve got the trophy on the mantel, you’ve taken the championship ring off and put it on the dresser, and you reflect back, and you say, ‘Did I make a difference today?’ If you can say that, I think it makes all of this very special for 250,000 people a year to share every one of these memories.”

The D. Wayne
Lukas File

• Age 83
• Native of Antigo, Wisc.
• Earned his master’s degree in education at the University of Wisconsin, where he worked as an assistant basketball coach for two years
• Taught high school and coached basketball for nine years
• During the summers, he trained and raced horses in South Dakota before turning to training Quarter Horses full time
Thoroughbred Racing (beginning in 1979)
• Leading trainer with 20 Breeders’ Cup victories
• $20 million-plus in purses
• Reached $279.5 million in career earnings as of September 2018, ranking fourth all-time
• Most Triple Crown series victories with 14, including four Kentucky Derby wins
• First trainer to reach $100 million and $200 million in earnings
• Has trained 25 champions, three of them Horse of the Year (Lady’s Secret in 1986, Criminal Type in 1990 and Charismatic in 1999)
• Led North American trainers in earnings 14 times
• Elected to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1999
• Received four Eclipse Awards of Merit, the thoroughbred industry’s highest honor
• He mentored many trainers who became successful in their own right, including Todd Pletcher, Kiaran McLaughlin, Dallas Stewart, Mark Hennig, Randy Bradshaw, Michael Maker, George Weaver and Bobby Barnett.

Quarter Horse Racing
• Developed 23 Quarter Horse champions
• Inducted into the Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2007

Fun Facts
While in college often performed at county fairs doing trick riding for extra money.
Compiled 44-95 record as coach of Logan High School boys basketball team in LaCrosse, Wisc.
0-for-12: Lukas’ much-publicized record with Kentucky Derby starters until he won with Winning Colors in 1988.
Six in a row: the record string of consecutive U.S. classic wins for Lukas that stretched from the 1994 Preakness Stakes through the 1996 Kentucky Derby.

• Source: Americasbestracing.net

In addition to the Lukas exhibit, the new, 11,000-square-feet wing has a new exhibit on the life and career of the late jockey Bill Shoemaker, plus two event spaces that can be rented for various events, such as weddings and parties up to 2,000 guests. The expansion also included renovating 5,000-square-feet of existing space.
The renovation offers 3,600 square feet of indoor event space that overlooks Churchill Downs and a covered Oaks Garden Terrace that boasts 7,300 square feet that can be used year-round.
“D. Wayne Lukas and Bill Shoemaker are icons of the thoroughbred racing industry and have had such profound influence on the sport,” said Patrick Armstrong, Kentucky Derby Museum president and CEO. “We are excited to share their stories and keep their legacies thriving for years to come.”
The six-month expansion project began right after this year’s Kentucky Derby. It represents the largest expansion since the museum opened in 1985. The museum underwent a major refurbishment following flooding in 2009. The museum is considered one of Louisville’s most popular attractions, and had 230,000 visitors last year, officials said. One of the main features is the movie “The Greatest Race,” a 360-degree, 18-minute media experience in the main room of the first floor. The museum also has many family friendly interactive exhibits, a gift shop and café.
The museum also has added a new stable for its resident thoroughbred horse and a miniature horse. The two horses are a highlight when school groups visit. The new stable has been named for Penny Chenery, owner of Triple Crown winner Secretariat and Riva Ridge, winner of the 1972 Kentucky Derby. Chenery died last year at age 95.
“We wanted to build upon the momentum of our recent growth and take it to the next level,” Armstrong said. “With this expansion, we’ll create a new, dynamic way to present our mission to engage, educate and excite everyone about the extraordinary event that is the Kentucky Derby.”

D. Wayne Lukas exhibit

“D. Wayne Lukas: The Modern Trainer” exhibit is expansive and takes up much of the new exhibit space on the second floor. It illustrates how the Wisconsin native combined a love of horses, a strong work ethic and an innovative mind to change and enhance modern thoroughbred training. Lukas has won 14 Triple Crown races, 20 Breeders’ Cup races and numerous Eclipse Awards recognizing his record 26 champion thoroughbreds. He was inducted into thoroughbred racing’s Hall of Fame in 1999 and is still an active trainer.
The exhibit looks at the training innovations that spurred this success, and the impact his methods have had on other trainers and the industry as a whole. The exhibit relies on Lukas’ personal collection to tell the story, a collection he entrusted to the museum in 2017.

Photo by Don Ward

The newly opened D. Wayne Lukas exhibit includes many photos, trophies and awards from Lukas’ personal collection. He announced in April he would donate the collection to the Kentucky Derby Museum. The museum established the exhibit in a newly built wing that also houses an exhibit from the Bill Shoemaker family.

“He kept the collection in his basement here in Louisville before he donated it to the museum,” explained the museum’s communications manager Lindsay English. “This exhibit is just a part of what he donated.”
Indeed, the exhibit features 1,400 items – 800 of which are trophies and awards in a wall-length display case. But there is much more of the collection that is still housed at the museum but not on display. The exhibit designers left an empty corner of the trophy display case to place any future trophies that Lukas earns in the twilight of his career.
At the reveal event, Lukas said after viewing the videos of his past wins, “Seeing it here, I get cold chills all over again. I want to come over and play it – just keep punching it, punching it, punching it because they are hard to win, and they are so special.”
Highlights of the exhibit include:
• Artifacts, images and video documenting his four Kentucky Derby winners and four Kentucky Oaks trophies;
• Trophies from the 1960s to present day documenting Lukas’ quarter horse and thoroughbred careers;
• Fine art representing some of Lukas’ greatest horses, including Winning Colors, Lady’s Secret and Landaluce;
• Interactive displays featuring former assistant trainers’ thought on Lukas’ mentoring and impact and video footage of many of Lukas’ greatest horses.
Baffert, one of Lukas’ friends and fellow trainers, has risen to fame with two recent Kentucky Derby winners, both of which went on to win the coveted Triple Crown – American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018). In the video, Baffert describes Lukas as a great horseman and promoter of the industry.
“I think he’s driven to be the best in his business. He did it with quarter horses, he did it in the thoroughbred business and now he’s in his early 80s and he’s still a tough competitor.
And he’s got a great mind. And he’s got so much pride. And he loves the horses. The horses are in his blood. He’s a great horseman. He’s always wanted to be the best. And he was the face of the thoroughbred industry for a long time.”
Stewart, a successful trainer and former assistant to Lukas, said on the video, “Just winning with Wayne was just remarkable. And even losing with Wayne. When you would lose, sometimes he would call you and say, ‘Hey, we’re winning out here on the West Coast and we need to get you some better horses.’ And sure enough, the plane would show up, and off the plane would come Wayne and more horses.”

Photo provided

D. Wayne Lukas speaks during the exhibit opening event at the Kentucky Derby Museum.

Former assistant trainer and exercise rider Danielle Rosier describes her time working for Lukas, saying, “He demands so much more out of a person than a lot of people do. He’ll pick you up and then the next day he will say this was really wrong or this was really bad. And he’ll be really angry. And the next day, he’s the first one to praise you. He tears you down, but he builds you back up and he teaches you so many things. And not just about the work and life in general, but you carry away so many things away from working with Wayne in every aspect of your life.”
Laurie Lukas, his current wife, says in the video that her husband is different than what some in the public may think of him. “The image that people may see of him is egotistical and maybe a touch arrogant, and that is not Wayne at all. He is so kind and so passionate. The word that stands out the most about Wayne is passion. He has so much passion for his work and for the people who work for him. And he’s so proud of his family – his two grandchildren and of me.”
Lukas’ only son, Jeff, was born to him and Janet, the first of four wives. Jeff followed in his father’s footsteps and began working for his father while in elementary school training quarter horses on the West Coast during the summer. At the time, Wayne was a high school teacher and basketball coach in Wisconsin. Later, Jeff gave up a Division III college football career and began working fulltime for his father at Santa Anita in 1978. By the 1980s, he was running his father’s East Coast thoroughbred division at Belmont and Saratoga and was instrumental in developing the team’s most important horses.
But on an early morning in mid-December 1993, Jeff suffered a debilitating back and brain injury when a loose race horse, Tabasco Cat, ran into him at full speed as Jeff tried to corral the horse on the backside at Santa Anita. He suffered a skull fracture when his head landed on concrete. He remained in a coma for several weeks.
Jeff spent months in recovery but was never able to work horses again because of permanent brain damage. He bounced around from Arcadia, Calif., to his hometown of La Crosse, Wisc., to Ocala, Fla., and then to Atoka, Okla. He died March 23, 2016, in
Atoka at age 58 of a heart-related condition. Tabasco Cat, meanwhile, went on to win the 1994 Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
The story of Jeff Lukas is briefly captured in photo and story boards in the exhibit, along with photos of father and son at various tracks.
Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs, said both the temporary and permanent exhibits will offer museum visitors a variety of unique experiences. “Being able to hear those stories from Wayne himself, to be able to see those great mementos,” Flanery said. “And to understand that behind every victory, behind every race, is a team of people whom Wayne has led into history.”

Bill Shoemaker exhibit

Photo by Don Ward

The newly opened Bill Shoemaker exhibit at the Kentucky Derby Museum explores the celebrity life and horse racing career of the late California jockey.

“Bill Shoemaker: Larger Than Life” exhibit, meanwhile, chronicles the life and times of the late jockey, who rubbed elbows with many celebrities during his life. As a result, he is often cited as thoroughbred racing’s last celebrity jockey.
Growing up a natural athlete who excelled at boxing and wrestling, the 4-foot-11 Shoemaker found his calling when he began working with thoroughbreds in high school. Beginning his pro riding career while still a teenager, Shoemaker won the Kentucky Derby four times over a span of four decades and 11 Triple Crown races in all.
In 1970, he won his 6,033rd race to become the all-time winningest rider in history, a record since broken by two other jockeys.
Based in California, Shoemaker was part of the state’s celebrity culture, appearing frequently on national TV, acting as a spokesperson for major companies and forever being immortalized in a series featuring famous athletes by noted pop artist Andy Warhol.
The Shoemaker exhibit features the jockey’s extensive collection that was presented to the museum in 2008 by his daughter. The 600-plus artifacts and images document Shoemaker’s youth, his extensive career as a jockey and his post-riding life as a thoroughbred trainer and advocate for the industry.
Exhibit highlights include:
• Artifacts documenting Shoemaker’s racing career, including his four Kentucky Derby wins aboard Swaps (1955), Tomy Lee (1959), Lucky’ Debonair (1965) and Ferdinand (1986);
• A special 180-degree interactive that allows visitors to view riding a thoroughbred horse from the perspective of a rider;
• Scrapbooks from the Shoemaker collection that document his riding career, his interactions with fans and life with his family.

Fundraising continues

Although the Museum sits adjacent to historic Churchill Downs Racetrack, it operates as a separate 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization, generating its own revenue. The Museum’s property was donated by Churchill Downs Racetrack and the construction of the facility and seed money for its endowment fund was provided by the J. Graham Brown Foundation and five banks in the community.
To date, the museum has raised $1.63 million in gifts from a variety of sources, including the Board of Directors, museum staff, corporate gifts, grants and luminaries of the thoroughbred racing industry. Debuting as part of the museum’s new wing will be a permanent display recognizing these generous donors at the entrance of the exhibit spaces.
The Supporting Silk Wall visually acknowledges each expansion donor, with contributors of $5,000 or more receiving a custom designed jockey silk. The museum will continue to raise funds for the expansion until the fundraising campaign goal of $2.5 million is met.

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