Jeff Lukas, 20 Years Later: ‘Out of the Darkness’

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Twenty years ago, in the late fall of 1993, Jeff Lukas was the top assistant to his father, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. The father-son team was at the top of the game, having already saddled one Kentucky Derby winner in Winning Colors.

Then one morning at Santa Anita, in an instant, everything changed. A highly-promising 2-year-old colt, Tabasco Cat, got loose from his handler and charged through the barn area. Jeff stood in the colt’s path, waving his arms and trying to get him to stop. Tabasco Cat ran into Jeff, sending the young trainer to the hospital with severe injuries.

In a moving feature for Sports Illustrated, Tim Layden visits with Jeff Lukas at his home in Atoka, Oklahoma, and discovers the unexpected path life has taken for the former trainer.

Read more in Sports Illustrated

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  • Right then, Right now

    I’m so grateful Jeff has found peace. His winning attitude is inspiring and heart-warming.
    Thanks, Ray, for reprinting this article.

  • Concerned Observer

    Wondered many times about what ever happened to Jeff. Thanks for the reprint.

  • LL

    Nicely written and the pictures are wonderful. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Jeff is so lucky to have David. Any family who has dealt with brain injuries can understand how lives can be changed.

  • princessspiro

    Excellent in-depth and interesting article, written by someone who seems to care, with heart. Glad to read Jeff found a good place for himself and what a wonderful friend he has and understanding son and daughter. I certainly have more respect for Wayne Lukas for stepping up as a father.

  • Chantal Smithless

    I truly enjoyed this. The incident was such a freaky thing — most horses would have completely veered away from a human doing what Jeff was doing in an attempt to slow him down, stop him, etc. but NOT Tabasco Cat! So glad when a publication like Sports Illustrated does a piece on horse racing like they USED to do so often!

  • joleen

    beautifully written article, kudos to the author, Jeff’s friend & father.
    And god bless Jeff and his family.
    A reminder to all of us horse people that life can change in a minute.

  • Mimi Hunter

    A very well written article done by someone who cares about the people involved. Catastrophic injuries are often just that – catastrophes. This one has a good ending.

  • Sandra Salmen

    This is a wonderful article, so heart felt, thank you to SI for printing this not only as a message but an inspirational.

  • Marshall Cassidy

    Tim Layden brings out the essences of both Jeff and Wayne so well, reading his story becomes a brief, nostalgic return to that time twenty years ago. To learn so much more of Jeff’s and Wayne’s struggles since December 1993 is to finally gain an understanding of that dark Racing calamity, and to appreciate where both are right now, together, and individually.

    Well done, Mr. Layden.

  • gg

    THAT WAS WONDERFUL. THANK YOU.

  • Sue M. Chapman

    Thanks to the Paulick Report for sharing this fine, heartfelt, beautifully written piece by Tim Layden. I remember that morning like it was yesterday. The reports were terrible, but Wayne refused to lose his son.

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