01/06/2011 4:00PM

2010 Eclipse Awards: Lookin At Lucky

Kim Pratt

At some point early in the 2010 racing season, the connections of Lookin At Lucky had to be pondering the age-old question: What’s in a name?

Bob Baffert had purchased Lookin At Lucky on behalf of Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman for $475,000 at the Keeneland 2009 April sale after the colt, a son of Smart Strike out of the Belong to Me mare Private Feeling, worked an eighth-mile in 10 seconds. Within a few months, Lookin At Lucky had already won himself out with four straight wins, including the Best Pal, Del Mar Futurity, and Norfolk. So far, so good.

That auspicious beginning made Lookin At Lucky the favorite for the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but the colt drew the outside in post 13 and fell a head short after an impossibly wide trip. A bit of bad racing luck to be sure, but Lookin At Lucky then cemented an Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old by winning the CashCall Futurity, and he was the clear future-book favorite for the Kentucky Derby.

As fate would have it, the only thing rougher than Lookin At Lucky’s road to Louisville was the Derby itself. Returned for his seasonal bow in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, also his first start on dirt, Lookin At Lucky checked off heels down the backstretch and was fortunate not to go down. Somehow, he regrouped beneath Garrett Gomez and was up in the final strides.

As the 4-5 favorite in the Santa Anita Derby three weeks later, Lookin At Lucky made his way to the inside after breaking from post 7, only to be sawed in half at a cost of several lengths on the far turn. He came on late for third.

Lookin At Lucky was the lukewarm favorite for the Kentucky Derby, despite drawing the dreaded rail. Sure enough, he was mugged twice soon after the start and found himself better than 20 lengths behind. Even so, he passed a dozen rivals to finish sixth.

Desperate for a karma change, Baffert switched riders to Martin Garcia for the Preakness. Drawn favorably in the middle of the field this time, Lookin At Lucky got a clean trip and prevailed for a hard-fought victory.

“Our luck had to change somehow the way the trips had been,” Baffert said afterward.

Freshened after four tough races in two months, Lookin At Lucky returned for the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park and turned in a breakthrough performance to win conclusively by four lengths and reaffirm his position as the leader of his generation.

“I think Lucky realized how fast he really is that day,” Baffert said.

Lookin At Lucky returned in early fall to win the Grade 2 Indiana Derby, looping the field from dead last to win going away.

Facing older horses in the Breeders’ Cup Classic for the first time, and breaking from the outside post just as he had a year earlier, Lookin At Lucky loomed boldly with a five-wide bid coming to midstretch and finished a solid fourth.

Lookin At Lucky was purchased by Coolmore Stud and retired shortly thereafter, and will begin his stallion career in 2011 at Ashford Stud, Coolmore’s North American division.

Despite numerous obstacles along the way, Lookin At Lucky is the clear favorite to become the first juvenile champion to repeat at 3 since Spectacular Bid in 1978-79.

“He never ran a clunker,” Baffert said. “Even the Derby, after getting wiped out, he still tried to run. He ran every time. I wish I could have that with every horse I buy. We had a lot of fun with him.”

PAST PERFORMANCES: Lookin At Lucky's 2010 season PPs (PDF)

KEY RACE REPLAY: Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park >>