03/24/2016 11:30AM

Jeff Lukas dead at 58

Barbara D. Livingston
Jeff Lukas, shown in 1987, was the only child of Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Jeff Lukas, the only child of Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas and the victim of a disabling accident that shook the racing world nearly a quarter-century ago, has died. Jeff Lukas was 58.

Lukas died Wednesday in Oklahoma, confirmed Bas Nicholl, a longtime assistant to D. Wayne Lukas, 80, who is based at Oaklawn Park. Nicholl did not know the cause of death and asked for privacy for Lukas.

Jeff Lukas’s son, Brady, is stationed overseas with the U.S. Air Force and was notified of his father’s death before word was released. Jeff Lukas also has a daughter, Kelly.

Born in Antigo, Wis., Jeff Lukas was a rising star in racing until he was run over by Tabasco Cat in the Santa Anita barn area in December 1993. He suffered severe brain trauma and eventually lived out his life in southeastern Oklahoma.

Trainer Dallas Stewart, now based at Fair Grounds, worked under Jeff Lukas in the 1980s. He was quite downcast with the passing of Jeff Lukas and on Thursday recalled traveling to California right after Jeff’s accident and seeing him in the hospital.

“There were so many tubes coming out of him. It’s amazing they were able to keep him alive,” Stewart said.

Stewart said Jeff was a great horseman, which is something Todd Pletcher, Kiaran McLaughlin, and Mark Hennig – all of whom worked under Jeff as assistants – have also said over the years.

“Jeff was the sharpest and most dedicated horseman I ever met,” Pletcher was quoted in the Twitter account of his publicist, Kelly Wietsma. “His impact on my life and career, as many others in the Lukas organization, is immeasurable. We will miss him greatly.”

Nicholl echoed the sentiment Thursday at a somber Lukas barn at Oaklawn, where the boss was not present, a rare occurrence. Nicholl is a longtime assistant to Lukas.

“Although I never had the pleasure of working with Jeff, I know he was an accomplished horseman who was instrumental in Wayne’s success,” said Nicholl.

Jeff Lukas played key roles in the careers of such horses as Lady’s Secret, the Horse of the Year in 1986. She won eight Grade 1 races that year with Jeff Lukas by her side, including beating the boys in the Whitney at Saratoga.

”Eight Grade 1 races in a year. Who does that?” Stewart said.

Other horses with whom Jeff Lukas has been closely linked include Winning Colors, the filly who won the Kentucky Derby in 1988. Nicholl said services for Jeff Lukas have not yet been scheduled. He said D. Wayne Lukas was working on arrangements Thursday.

–additional reporting by Marty McGee, Jay Privman