Lukas, Seize The Grey land Preakness

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Seize The Grey storms to victory in the 149th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course Saturday. Maryland Jockey Club Photo

D. Wayne Lukas didn’t budge. Perched in the front row of the owners’ box seats above the finish line at Pimlico Race Course, the octogenarian Hall of Famer everyone calls ‘The Coach’ and some still call ‘The King,’ Lukas watched the 149th Preakness Stakes unfold and didn’t budge.

Seize The Grey, a son of Arrogate owned by 2,750 microshare investors that make up the MyRacehorse group, clicked past the half-mile pole more than 2 lengths clear. He and jockey Jaime Torres maintained that margin around the far turn, holding Imagination, stablemate Just Steel and Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan at bay.

Lukas still didn’t move.

He did lean over to his wife Laurie, and called his shot.

“Watch out, we’re home free,” Lukas said.

Decked out in his trademark shades and white cowboy hat albeit without the tailored suits he was known for in the 1980s and 90s, Lukas knew what he was talking about. Seize The Grey, running back in two weeks after an impressive win in the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile on Kentucky Derby Day, turned for home in front and in command. He stayed that way through the lane, fending off challenges from Mystik Dan and Catching Freedom to give Lukas his seventh Preakness victory.

“I didn’t think he’d – after having that Pat Day Mile under his belt – back up one iota,” Lukas said afterward.

Seize The Grey won by 2 1/4 lengths over Mystik Dan, who won a photo with Catching Freedom for the runner-up spot. Tuscan Gold finished another 6 lengths back in the Pimlico mud, with Just Steel, Uncle Heavy, Imagination and Mugatu strung out well behind the winner. Seize The Grey won in 1:56.82 over the track officially rated muddy and sealed.

A $300,000 purchase by MyRacehorse at the 2022 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings, Seize The Grey upset the middle jewel of the Triple Crown as the 9-1 sixth choice in the field of eight. He also spoiled any chance of Mystik Dan’s attempt for a Triple Crown sweep in three weeks at Saratoga Race Course in the Belmont Stakes.

The front-running win didn’t seem to shock Lukas, who won his first Preakness in 1980 when Codex upset Kentucky Derby-winning filly Genuine Risk.

“People ask that all the time, and the last one is always the sweetest,” said Lukas, who now counts 15 American classic victories in his Hall of Fame career. “The last girl you dance with is the one you take home.

“The thing about it is every time we’ve been lucky to win one of these that it’s been with a different client, and so that is what makes it special. That’s what makes this one special. Two-thousand-people-plus. … That’s what I get paid for, to let them live the dream.”

Torres, a 25-year-old who won his first race at Gulfstream Park in September 2022, also realized a dream born while growing up in Puerto Rico.

“Can you guys imagine when you are watching a movie and you have this horse, like it’s the main character in the movie and you see the last race and he wins and you feel that emotion, but just think like it’s real? I cannot explain it,” Torres said, turning to Lukas and MyRacehorse’s Michael Behrens in the post-race press conference. “This horse means a lot for me. Thank you guys, for giving me the opportunity. It means a lot.”

Torres made the most of the opportunity.

Aboard Seize The Grey at Saratoga last summer for the gray colt’s second start – going 6 1/2 furlongs on a sloppy track in late July – Torres rode him to a 16-1 upset over eventual graded stakes winner Dornoch. Torres rode Seize The Grey two more times during his juvenile season, a fourth in the Grade 3 Iroquois in September at Churchill Downs and a third in allowance company in October at Keeneland.

Torres reunited with Seize The Grey in the Pat Day Mile, which wound up a backup race for the colt after he didn’t crack the top 20 by points needed to make the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby. Seize The Grey won the Pat Day Mile at 9-1, coming from just off a fast pace to defeat a solid field for his third win in nine starts.

Lukas fielded calls from agents of six riders for the Preakness, but stuck with Torres for his classics debut.

As the trainer put it, the agents asked, “You’re going to change riders for the big one, aren’t you?”

“Not a chance,” Lukas replied. “He’s staying right there.”

Torres didn’t intend to take the lead from the start but wound up there past the stands the first time when Imagination took an overland route under Frankie Dettori past the finish post. Imagination stayed several paths off the rail around the first turn while Seize The Grey stayed inside ahead of Just Steel and Mystik Dan.

Seize The Grey got away with a first quarter-mile in :23.98, a half-length clear of the wide Imagination and 3 lengths ahead of Just Steel. Torres still made them chase through the half in :48.33 and 6 furlongs in 1:11.95 before Brian Hernandez Jr., aboard Mystik Dan and Joel Rosario, aboard Just Steel, confronted Imagination from the inside and outside.

Seize The Grey flew past the quarter pole and into the stretch, didn’t give an inch to the chasers and still led by 2 lengths in midstretch.

“He just relaxed for me,” Torres said. “He felt the other horses coming close and he was just looking at them. As soon as I asked, I had a lot of horse. That was like from the quarter pole to the wire, he gave me everything.”

Hernandez and Kenny McPeek, trainer of Mystik Dan, didn’t make excuses for the runner-up finish by the Derby winner and tipped their caps to the winner.

“Unfortunately, we were second best today,” Hernandez said after hopping off the son of Goldencents to meet McPeek. “You have to congratulate the winner, because he did it all on their own terms. My horse ran well, they both ran two weeks ago, to win the Derby like he did and then come back today and run a respectable second, you have to be proud of him. We kind of expected Seize the Grey to show some speed coming out of there. I didn’t think he’d be that quick, but he set his own fractions, and he went some legitimate fractions, and he was able to kick away as well.”

McPeek, the light-hearted butt of Lukas’ jokes at the Kentucky Derby Trainers Dinner two weeks ago and Alibi Breakfast two days before the Preakness, agreed with his rider.

“Wayne’s amazing,” McPeek said. “What can you say? Stolen on the front. He said he was going to go. Brian made the right move. Obviously, speed held. That’s why they call it horse racing, right?”

Bred in Kentucky by the Otto family’s Jamm Ltd., Seize The Grey is the third foal out of the winning Smart Strike mare Smart Shopping. A product of the late Jack Dreyfus’ Hobeau Farm breeding lines (via second dam Shop Again and third dam Shopping), Seize The Grey picked up $1.2 million of the Preakness’ $2 million purse to boost his bankroll to $1,819,938.

Lukas wouldn’t commit to the Belmont Stakes – shortened from 12 to 10 furlongs for the 2024 renewal – before looking at the other probable runners for the final American classic.

“When you win, you right away turn the page and say, ‘where’s the next one?’ ” Lukas said. “But I want to look at him a little bit. I have had such good luck with Arrogate. I had Secret Oath in the Oaks two years ago now, and I’m beginning to feel like Seize The Grey can run a mile and a half and this year it’s a mile and a quarter. I think, if they’re going to beat him, they maybe should extend it back out a bit.

“If we go, we’ll be tough. He’ll get a mile and a quarter. …You never know how many are going to go on, fresh ones. Chad Brown is sitting there probably, Todd Pletcher, it’s going to be a whole different field. We’ll analyze everything.”