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Oxbow wins Preakness Stakes

BALTIMORE — D. Wayne Lukas — his silver hair sparkling like the trophy he had just won for a record sixth time, his black suit and white shirt perfectly tailored and pressed — looked like anything but what he proudly claimed to be: a ruthless hit man.

"I get paid," the 77-year-old trainer said with a touch of glee, "to spoil dreams."

That's what Lukas did Saturday at Pimlico Race Course. Oxbow's surprisingly easy upset of 3-5 favorite and Kentucky Derby winner Orb in the Preakness Stakes not only gave Lukas a record 14th Triple Crown win, pushing him past Jim Fitzsimmons, it ensured a 36th straight year without a Triple Crown winner.

"It's getting tougher all the time" to win a Triple Crown, said Lukas, whose last win in one of the three races before Saturday was the 2000 Belmont Stakes. "We're getting larger fields, and the preparations leading up to these classics are so much tougher now."

With 50-year-old Gary Stevens — who claimed afterward he was the first grandfather to win a Triple Crown race — capping off a long shot, two-race double, the 15-1 Oxbow cruised virtually wire-to-wire to steal a third Preakness for the garrulous jockey.

Stevens definitely is the oldest jockey to win the Preakness, his third in the second leg of the Triple Crown. The Hall of Famer has won nine Triple Crown races, three in each leg.

Oxbow, who ran the 13/16 miles in 1 minute, 57.54 seconds, took the lead early and was in front by more than a length entering the far turn. Stevens turned at that point to check on the competition that, by then, looked a lot like the besotted crowd that had been occupying Pimlico's raucous infield for hours.

"It seemed that everybody else gave way," said Stevens, who won Friday's Grade II Dixie Stakes on another Lukas long shot, 24-1 Skyring. "The final eighth of a mile, when (Oxbow) was breathing fire a little bit, I expected to see a horse come up and shadow me the last 50 yards. That didn't happen.

"A lot of critics are going to think that I'm full of it saying this, but I won with a little something left."

Itsmyluckyday was second, 1¾ lengths behind. Mylute, with Rosie Napravnik trying to become the first female jockey to win the Preakness, was third.

Orb, never appearing comfortable in his first foray from the inside post, had beaten Oxbow by nearly 10 lengths in a Kentucky Derby triumph so impressive, it had racing people believing he could be the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

Since 1961, only one horse, Tabasco Cat in 1994, has won a Preakness from the rail.

"The pace was slower than I anticipated," said Orb's crestfallen trainer, Shug McGaughey. "I still thought we would be close into it, but it just wasn't his day. He was just never real comfortable once he got down in there."

"He always runs hard," said Orb's jockey, Joel Rosario. "But (Saturday) he never took off. He just steadied. (Saturday) was not his day."

The longer Oxbow led untested, the more confident Stevens, who ended a seven-year retirement in January and has been less than his Hall of Fame self since, became.

"It's been a month since I won my last race," said Stevens when asked if he ever doubted his decision to return. "When I won on Skyring, a $50 horse, just prior to the Preakness, you don't know what kind of boost that gave me.

"And I thought to myself, 'Man, it doesn't matter what the form looks like on a horse. You go out there with confidence and you can throw an upset.' "

Oxbow wins Preakness Stakes 05/18/13 [Last modified: Saturday, May 18, 2013 10:39pm]
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