Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas was resting well in a Philadelphia-area hospital Sunday after suffering a health scare Saturday, but did not have a heart attack according to his assistant Tim Austin.
Lukas, 80, was slated to saddle Mr. Z in Saturday's $1 million Pennsylvania Derby and champion Take Charge Brandi in the $1 million Cotillion Stakes at Parx but was feeling unwell and did not attend the races, Austin said. Contrary to initial reports tweeted out by owner Ahmed Zayat that Lukas had suffered a heart attack, Austin said that was not the case.
"He is fine. He didn't have a heart attack," said Austin. "The heart was beating a little slow. Right now he is in the hospital and they are monitoring him and everything is good right now."
Austin said that Lukas's wife Laurie was en route from Colorado.
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Though there had also been reports on social media of Lukas having surgery for a pacemaker, Austin said Sunday morning, "I think it's probably going to happen but it has not yet."
A four-time Eclipse Award winner for outstanding trainer, Lukas has won a record 14 Triple Crown races, trained 26 Thoroughbred champions and is hailed as one of the single biggest influences on the modern training game. The tree of trainer protégés that have come of out his heralded program includes seven-time Eclipse Award winner Todd Pletcher, Kiaran McLaughlin, Dallas Stewart and Mark Hennig.
The Wisconsin native has repeatedly joked about how he rarely ever visits a doctor but remains in top physical shape, notoriously being first to the barn in the mornings. His hickory constitution and stubbornness were on display in June 2012 when he was kicked in the head by his charge Hamazing Destiny on the Belmont Park backstretch but was back taking out sets the next morning despite the stitches in his forehead.
"He'll be back on his pony yelling at us before too long," Austin said. "He's a very tough guy."