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 flavoring his Midwestern twang, "to spoil dreams."
That's what Lukas did late Saturday afternoon at Pimlico Race Course. Oxbow's surprisingly easy upset of 3-5 favorite Orb in the 138th Preakness gave the veteran trainer a sixth victory in this classic event and ensured that for a 36th consecutive year horse racing will not have 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 came in 2000. "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 that 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.
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 the day's previous race, the Grade II Dixie Stakes, on another Lukas long shot, 24-1 Skyring. "The final eighth of a mile, when he 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."
Orb, never appearing comfortable in his first foray from the inside post, had beaten the Preakness winner 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."
Itsmyluckyday was second, 13/4 lengths behind. Mylute, with Rosie Napravnik trying to become the first female jockey to win here, was third.
Orb finished fourth. But neither they nor anyone else in the nine-horse field seriously challenged the slow pace Oxbow was setting - 23.94 after a quarter mile, 48.60 at the half.
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," Stevens said when asked whether he ever doubted his decision to return to the sport. "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.' "
Most of the crowd of 117,203 - fourth largest in Preakness history - waited for Orb to move, bellowing for the favorite to do so as the horses hit the top of the stretch.
But, tucked in on the inside, behind several horses, Orb never exploded the way he did at Churchill Downs. As that became clear, the noise faded much like Orb and the rest of the field.
"He always runs hard," said Orb's jockey, Joel Rosario. "But today he never took off. He just steadied. Today was not his day."
It certainly was Lukas' day.
Not only did he win a record sixth Preakness, but his total of 14 Triple Crown victories pushed him past the legendary Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons as the winningest Triple Crown trainer ever.
Oxbow's unexpected win marked a return to the spotlight by his Calumet Farm owners. Once the most dominant stable in racing, with Triple Crown winners Citation and Whirlaway, the Kentucky barn had nearly closed, filing for bankruptcy in 1991.
Asked whether he planned to take Oxbow to the Belmont Stakes in three weeks, Lukas demurred.
"We haven't even had a chance to cool him out yet," he said. "But you know me. I like to rack them up in the big events. So I'll probably go."
So Sunday morning at 4:30, he'll load Oxbow in a big van and head for their Kentucky home.
"We'll head down the road and make about two Wendy's stops on the way, and pretty soon we'll be in Louisville," he said.