Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas may not have a horse in Saturdays Kentucky Derby but he sure started the Churchill Downs spring meet with a bang, winning Saturdays Derby Trial Stakes by what seemed like a short pole.

The margin of victory of Flying First Class was 3 lengths, but it seemed like a lot more such was the dominant nature of the performance, for which the old ball coach pulled out all the stops.

Lukas has a history of prepping horses in highly graded stakes in which the horses are, by definition, ambitiously placed. In the case of Flying First Class, he raced in two graded routes off a maiden sprint win including an appearance against Curlin. If that doesnt season a three-year-old sufficiently this year, it cant be done.

Seasoning gained and conditioning achieved, next comes the turn-back into a 7 furlong one-turn, elongated sprint against non-graded winners. Flying First Class dominated with his speed from gate to wire, taking on all challenges before drawing out to an insurmountable lead leaving the three-sixteenths pole.

For good measure and to complete the play, Lukas made a late rider switch to Mark Guidry, who is rapidly approaching the 5,000-win milestone and recently announced his intention to retire late this summer. Guidry became available when his original mount, Bwana Bull, was a late scratch. Parenthetically, it would seem Lukas now owes jockey Larry Melancon another live mount.

Of course, Lukas is a great teacher. You might have noticed the added success attained last year by two former protgs, Todd Pletcher and Kiaran McLaughlin. One lesson that Pletcher has learned is imparting, Lukas style, mental toughness and seasoning to his runners.

Witness how Pletcher is training Circular Quay up to the Derby, in company with the gifted filly and heavy Kentucky Oaks favorite, Rags To Riches. She makes him work harder, focus better, get more from the work. With her racing on the inside in their trials, he toughens her up, a win-win.

Pletcher and McLaughlin, trainer of defending Horse of the Year Invasor, and Mark Hennig and Dallas Stewart, among others, have learned their lessons well. Lukas will be remembered best as the trainer of trainers and a man who revolutionized his sport, as in the 80s catch-phrase; D Wayne Off the Plane.

But Wayne Lukas has not forgotten his quarter-horse roots, either. He still knows how to get one ready, point toward an objective, and score.