09/06/2009 11:00PM

Baffert looking for No. 9 in Futurity

Email
Benoit & Associates
Lookin At Lucky must overcome an inside draw in Monday's Futurity.

DEL MAR, Calif. - No trainer has dominated any major stakes in North America over the past 13 years quite like Bob Baffert in the Del Mar Futurity. He won it an incredible seven straight times from 1996 to 2002, then let a few others get the glory before jumping back into the pool last year. That's eight wins in 13 runnings. And he will be favored to get No. 9 on Monday.

Baffert sends out Lookin At Lucky, the likely favorite in the Grade 1, $300,000 Del Mar Futurity - as well as the improving Marcello - in search of another victory in Del Mar's elite race for 2-year-olds. There are seven others in the seven-furlong race, including a filly, but the route to the winner's circle, as is more often the case in this race, goes through Baffert.

The Futurity used to be the closing-day feature at Del Mar. This year, though, it was moved up to Labor Day in order to anchor a stakes-filled, four-day holiday weekend. It is the eighth race on a 10-race card that begins at the usual time of 2 p.m. Pacific.

Lookin At Lucky has displayed more talent than anyone in the field to date. Heavily touted before his debut at Hollywood Park in July, he won easily and then came back and took Del Mar's Best Pal Stakes last month.

"He's done everything," Baffert said. "He acted like a star from Day 1. He came around quickly. He does everything easily. I think he's got a big future. He's got a great style. He's push-button. You can move any time you want."

Lookin At Lucky, however, was able to use outside posts to craft comfortable trips in his first two starts. This time, he must overcome an inside draw.

Marcello defeated maidens Aug. 15 in his second start after finishing fourth to another Baffert trainee, Tiny Woods, in his debut.

"He's going to like seven-eighths," Baffert said.

Make Music for Me and Smiling Tiger, second and third in the 6 1/2-furlong Best Pal, are back to try Lookin At Lucky again. Make Music for Me is still a maiden but earned a shot in this race based on his excellent effort in the Best Pal.

Smiling Tiger had to gun from the rail in the Best Pal. With a more favorable draw this time, he can improve.

Hurricane Ike was fourth in the Best Pal after an adventurous, though winning, effort in his debut. Trainer John Sadler believes Hurricane Ike was flat in the Best Pal because of a blazing six-furlong work in 1:10.60 six days before the race.

"He left his race in the morning," Sadler said. "That was part of it. He was still a little green the second time, too. The first time, he didn't even make the turn. I've worked him slower. I think he'll move forward."

Sadler also said he was switching to a ring bit in hope of providing the jockey, in this case Joe Talamo, more control.

"He's been behaving better in the mornings," Sadler said.

Sterling Outlook was second to Lookin At Lucky in a maiden race at Hollywood Park on July 11, then, in his fourth start, crushed maidens at Del Mar on Aug. 1. His Beyer Speed Figure in that race, 89, tops the field.

"My horse is training as well as you could want," said Peter Miller, who trains Sterling Outlook. "He's a totally different horse now, compared to when he raced against Lookin At Lucky. He's fitter, more aggressive, smarter. Before, he was a big dummy."

Champagne d'Oro, a filly who defeated maidens in her last start, was entered in the Darley Debutante on Saturday, but trainer Eric Guillot said he was going to scratch her in order to run in the Futurity. Guillot also trains Mi Sueno, who was the morning-line favorite in the Debutante.

"Two bangs for your buck," Guillot said of the reason to put Champagne d'Oro in the Futurity. "Might as well have fun. If both run Saturday, they both can't win."

Guillot added that Champagne d'Oro "gets out on the turn, and I don't want her to get out into Mi Sueno."

Zip Quik has returned to Southern California after finishing a distant second in the Sanford Stakes at Saratoga.

Who's Up was second in his debut in a highly rated maiden race Aug. 22.