01/18/2010 12:00AM

Lookin At Lucky is 2-year-old champ

Barbara D. Livingston
Lookin At Lucky is one of the most promising Derby prospects in years for trainer Bob Baffert.

Surely he was more good than lucky, at least when it came to his 2-year-old season. If not for a wide trip on both turns in his only defeat, Lookin At Lucky would have had a perfect 2009.

Nonetheless, Lookin At Lucky had a sensational year indeed, earning himself the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. He won 5 of his 6 races, with his narrow defeat to Vale of York in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile being the lone blotch. Moreover, with that solid foundation beneath him, trainer Bob Baffert has one of his most promising prospects in years for the Kentucky Derby.

Racing under the red and gold colors of Mike Pegram, who owns the colt in partnership with Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Lookin at Lucky began his career with a maiden victory on the July 11 Hollywood Gold Cup undercard as an odds-on favorite. He followed that by sweeping the two major stakes at Del Mar, the Grade 2 Best Pal in August and the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity in September, all the while using a sustained run from just a few lengths off the pace.

His victory in the seven-furlong Del Mar Futurity looked particularly strong. Lookin At Lucky raced behind horses for the first five furlongs, then had to fight his way between rivals before taking over in the decisive final yards.

"He's a serious horse," Baffert said after the Del Mar Futurity. "The horse learned a whole lot today."

With the Juvenile being the obvious year-end goal, Lookin At Lucky had his final prep in the Grade 1 Norfolk on Oct. 4 at Santa Anita. Making his first start around two turns, the colt used familiar tactics, biding his time from just off the pace before launching his bid and prevailing by nearly two lengths.

For the 1 1/16-mile Juvenile at Santa Anita, Lookin At Lucky was assigned the outside post in a field of 13. He was at least six wide into the first turn, and although he had a relatively comfortable trip, he was still wide on the second turn. He fired, only to be beaten a matter of inches by longshot Vale of York, who had enjoyed a great rail trip before angling out with his stretch run.

Unwilling to end the season on a down note, Baffert opted to run Lookin At Lucky in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity in December at Hollywood Park. The colt responded with a workmanlike effort, prevailing after going to the lead earlier than usual.

"He's getting better and better," Baffert said afterward.

Lookin At Lucky is by the top sire Smart Strike out of Private Feeling, by Belong to Me. The bay colt was bred in Kentucky by the Gulf Coast Farms LLC and was purchased for $475,000 at the Keeneland 2-year-old in training sales in April 2009.

Lookin At Lucky was the favorite and was ridden by Garrett Gomez in all six of his races. He earned $1,243,000 for the year.

Baffert, the Hall of Fame trainer who has won the Kentucky Derby three times, has said he intends for Lookin At Lucky to have two or three prep races leading up to the 136th Derby on May 1.

Pegram's previous horses have included such major stakes winners as Real Quiet, Silverbulletday, Captain Steve, and Midnight Lute.