11/07/2009 2:29PM

Day Two...Fire It Up


During the 2003 running of the Breeders' Cup races at Santa Anita Park, fires raged throughout Southern California and firefighters from dozens of jurisdictions battled the blazes. This year, except for one flare-up to the east, the track has been spared the smoke and ash that filled the skies. But if anyone needs a firefighter, all the need to do is come to the Santa Anita infield. More than 1,700 firefighters, representing county and municipal forces, as well as the U.S. Forest Service, were the guests of the Breeders' Cup and the Oak Tree Racing Association at a special infield party. They were joined by about 400 members of the USO, along with a half dozen or so real live firefighting vehicles, including the brawny hook and ladder from the nearby Rosemead station of the Los Angeles County FD.

L.A. County firefighters Brian Murphy (left) and Rick Rodrigues tip the Classic.


Mike Pegram was consoling himself with a cold one at Holy Nola's bar in the clubhouse mezzanine after Lookin at Lucky was anything but in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. His fate was probably sealed at the draw, when he got post 13 going the mile and one-sixteenth. Still, had even the slightest ray of fortune shone his way, the Smart Strike colt might have found that tough head he was beaten by Godolphin's Vale of York on the line.

"I'll hand it to the other colt," Pegram said. "He beat us to that hole when he had to. But if they think they've got a better horse, they can put up that million they just won and I'll run against them again tomorrow."

Of course, Big Mike didn't mean tomorrow, but whenever, and he made a good point about Vale of York running a dead game race of his own. After a perfect trip, the Godolphin colt, under Ahmed Ajtebi, needed to make a quick right to get a clear run in the final sixteenth. Lookin at Lucky, after seeing every leaf on the hedges rimming the outside of the track, was still grinding away for Garrett Gomez. With a burst, they could have closed the door on Vale of York. Instead, the two colts ended up engaged, side by side, and Lucky lost a tough one.

"I'll tell you what," Pegram added, "there's no way you can say we took a called third strike." No question, Lookin at Lucky went down swinging, and he did nothing to harm his profile of a colt with Kentucky Derby written all over him. Pegram and trainer Bob Baffert have had their sights on Louisville from the moment Lookin at Lucky started breezing. Vale of York will surely hightail it to Dubai now for the winter, and that will be that. A horse trained in the Middle East for the Derby has yet to hit the board. Pegram envisions a more conventional route for his colt.

"If it was up to me, I'd run him in the Hollywood Futurity, give him January and February off, then bring him back somewhere on dirt," Pegram said. Sounds like a plan.


Tyler Baze wishes he had a trip as good as Lookin at Lucky in the Turf Sprint. Riding Gotta Have Her, a daughter of Breeders' Cup Mile winner Royal Academy, Baze was bumped and battered and took up more than a couple of times through stretch, while California Flag went on his merry way up front, in a race of his own. Gotta Have Her was never going to catch him, but it would have been closer than the 1 3/4 lengths she was beaten by the freaking California Flag.

"Tyler was almost in tears," said Jenine Sahadi, whose work with Gotta Have Her has reminded fans why she won Breeders' Cup Sprints with Elmhurst and Lit de Justice. "I had to tell him you're always going to have trouble coming down the hill in a field like that. He did a great job. I'm proud of both of them."

A half hour later, Baze was back to give Cost of Freedom a rocking chair ride in the Sprint and led deep into the stretch. Didn't do a bit of good, though. They were caught in a whirlwind finish by Dancing in Silks and Crown of Thorns to finish third, beaten a nose and a head.