01/19/2010 7:27PM

Update: Lookin at Lucky


     To trainer Bob Baffert, 2010 is starting off like the days when his barn was loaded with top-quality 3-year-olds seemingly every year.  This doesn’t assure him of a fourth Kentucky Derby victory, of course, but it beats the alternative.

    At the head of his roster is the new juvenile champion:


 Smart Strike-Private Feeling by Belong to Me

 Owners- Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, Paul Weitman

 Trainer- Bob Baffert

 Jockey- Garrett Gomez


 Dec 19—Hol---Hollywood Futurity---1 1-16---1-¾----49-56-70  86

 Nov 7-----SA---Breeders’ Cup Juv------1 1-16---2-hd---31-51-73  89

 Oct 4------SA---Norfolk-------------------1 1-16---1-1¾--55-65-79  89

 Sept 7----Dmr--Del Mar Futurity-------7 furs----1-1----58-73-86  86

 Aug 9-----Dmr--Best Pal----------------6½ furs---1-¾---74-78-       87

 July 11---Hol---Maiden-------------------6 furs----1-¾---72-77-       85


   Lookin at Lucky didn’t win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but he should have. 

   He isn’t undefeated, but he should be.

    Lookin at Lucky was so much the best at Santa Anita he gained stature in defeat.  Like Colonel John and Pioneerofthe Nile before him, he has competed only on synthetic surfaces and never on dirt.  But at this point, Lookin at Lucky has to be considered the early Derby favorite.

     In the Breeders’ Cup, Lookin at Lucky’s No. 13 post position doomed him to an unacceptably wide trip:  four- to six-wide around the first turn and four- to five-wide on the second turn.  On ground loss alone, Lookin at Lucky could be judged five lengths superior than Juvenile winner Vale of York, who beat him by a head with a dream inside run.

     But pace figures illustrate another element of his misfortune.  In an attempt to minimize the impact of the post position, Garrett Gomez eased Lookin at Lucky back leaving the gate in hopes of dropping behind the speed and angling closer to the inside.  The pace was slower than expected, however, and the bunched-up field left Gomez no room to maneuver.  Those tactics plus ground loss had Lookin at Lucky nearly nine lengths behind a slower-than-par pace.  Look above at his slower pace figures in the Juvenile.

     In that race, at least, we were lookin’ at unlucky.

    Six weeks later, Lookin at Lucky figured to dominate an overmatched Hollywood Futurity field.  And he benefited from a perfect trip.  But instead of running away with it, he seemed to flounder a bit late.

      Trainer Bob Baffert believes he knows why. He theorizes Lookin at Lucky eased up when he got to the lead in that race, and intends to ask permission to equip the colt with blinkers for his next scheduled start in the March 13 San Felipe Stakes.

      “It looked like he would open five (lengths) on them easy, but he just shut it down,” Baffert said. “(Garrett) said he felt like a sitting duck.”

       Baffert never considered blinkers for Lookin at Lucky at the beginning of his career because “he was such a smart horse.”  He briefly considered blinkers after the Oct. 4 Norfolk Stakes, in which he believed Lookin at Lucky coasted after getting to the front in the stretch, but ultimately chose not to tinker too much with the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile fast approaching.

       After the Hollywood Futurity, Baffert asked Gomez about adding the blinkers. Gomez replied that he was planning to recommend them to Baffert. Blinkers were added to Lookin at Lucky's repertoire in a subsequent workout, for which Gomez was in the saddle for feedback.

      “I was afraid about him getting rank,” Baffert said. “But (Gomez) came back smiling and said, ‘I like this.’’’

     Baffert had indicated after the Hollywood Futurity victory that Lookin at Lucky could get at least one prep race on dirt prior to the Kentucky Derby, but now he says that appears doubtful.

     “If the track were to change or he has a hiccup with training, I might take him somewhere else,” Baffert said. “I don’t know for sure, but right now, I don’t see him traveling. I can sit right here for the Santa Anita Derby. He’s already done a lot, so I just have to keep him healthy and fit.  And he’s still developing, changing, starting to fill out more and growing.”

     Another factor in Lookin at Lucky’s future schedule is the other talent in Baffert’s 3-year-old arsenal, including San Rafael winner Conveyance, maiden graduate Take Control (a son of A.P. Indy and Azeri), and Tiz Chrome.

     “Those other horses are starting to catch up to (Lookin at Lucky) right now,” he said. “Take Control is a serious horse.  It took a long time for him to come along, but he’s caught up real fast. Tiz Chrome is another one.  And Conveyance reminds me of Holy Bull.  Those horses will probably be shipping. But right now, I would probably run Lookin at Lucky (in the San Felipe) and then the Santa Anita Derby.”