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Run for the Roses

From the hard court to the turf: D. W. Lukas has won the Kentucky Derby four times, including three times in a five-year stretch from 1995 to 1999.

John Allen
May 01, 2013

D. W. Lukas at the 1988 Derby

Badgers watching the Kentucky Derby this weekend will want to keep an eye on a horse called Oxbow, even though he’s a longshot. (The website Allhorseracing.com lists him at 35 to 1.) Oxbow’s trainer is UW grad D. Wayne Lukas ’57, MS’60.

While in Madison, Lukas’s interest ran toward the hard court, not the turf. He was an assistant coach for the Badger basketball team, and his master’s thesis is titled “The effect of a weighted training shoe on the jumping performance, agility, running speed, and endurance of college basketball players.”

(The only copy we can find is in the UW library.) But he moved to California in the 1960s, began training quarter horses, and eventually became one of the most celebrated trainers in the nation. Between 1980 and 2012, his horses won 32 major races. He’s won the Kentucky Derby four times, including three times in a five-year stretch from 1995 to 1999.

If you’re watching, raise a mint julep for Oxbow, and be sure to hum “Varsity” while everyone else sings “My Old Kentucky Home.”

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