07/26/2010 4:12PM

Lookin At Lucky has bullet workout prepping for Haskell


DEL MAR, Calif. – For all the planning that can go into a key workout for trainer Bob Baffert, ranging from decisions on proper workmates to making sure he is in radio contact with his riders, there is still an element of uncontrolled chaos to a morning at the track, namely that other trainers have horses out there, trying to accomplish their own goals.

So what was supposed to be a simple, five-furlong workout for Lookin At Lucky on Monday morning at Del Mar – his final prep for the Haskell Invitational on Sunday at Monmouth – became something far more involved, with other horses happening to be at the same spot on the same track at the same time Lookin At Lucky broke into his work with stablemate Flagship. Fortunately for Baffert, he was able to relay instructions to jockey Martin Garcia as Lookin At Lucky began to go far too fast for Baffert’s liking the first part of the work. Yet Lookin At Lucky, the Preakness Stakes winner, still rolled around the track in 58.60 seconds, easily the fastest five-furlong drill among 46 at the distance on Monday over the Polytrack surface at Del Mar.

“I slowed him up in the stretch. He was going too fast,” Baffert said as soon as the work was over. “He was going to go in 57. I didn’t want him to go too fast.” Baffert timed Lookin At Lucky going out six furlongs in 1:11.60.

The Haskell will be the first start for Lookin At Lucky since his victory in the Preakness 2 1/2 months ago. Based on the work, and his appearance even before breaking off for the drill, Lookin At Lucky looks ready for a top effort. Gone is the quirky hind-end hitch he often has displayed when going at a jog or slow gallop. And in the work, Lookin At Lucky broke off about 10 lengths behind a trio of horses, including Flagship, and made up eight lengths before coasting home under Garcia.

“He’s doing great,” Baffert said.

Lookin At Lucky is scheduled to fly to New Jersey on Thursday.

Bing Crosby coming up strong

The top sprinters Cost of Freedom and E Z’s Gentleman, who won two of the major sprint stakes races at Hollywood Park, will meet anew in the Grade 1, $250,000 Bing Crosby Stakes going six furlongs on Sunday.

Cost of Freedom beat E Z’s Gentleman in the six-furlong Los Angeles Handicap on June 5. E Z’s Gentleman then came back to take the seven-furlong Triple Bend Handicap on July 10, a race Cost of Freedom bypassed. Cost of Freedom had been pointed to the Bing Crosby for several weeks, but the decision to run E Z’s Gentleman was made after a sharp workout on Monday morning at Del Mar, in which he covered five furlongs in 59.60 seconds while finishing evenly with his Baffert-trained stablemate, El Brujo.

“He’s in the zone right now, so you’ve got to take advantage of that,” Baffert said. “He worked real well. I wasn’t sure I was going to run him. But when they’re in the zone, you’ve got to run them.”

Both E Z’s Gentleman and El Brujo are owned by Arnold Zetcher, who recently acquired El Brujo through private purchase. El Brujo, largely based at Woodbine during his career, scored wins in the Kentucky Cup Sprint at Turfway, and the Perryville at Keeneland, last fall. Both those races were on Polytrack.

In addition to Cost of Freedom, E Z’s Gentleman, and El Brujo, the Crosby field is expected to include My Summer Slew, Scenic Blast, and Sky Cape. Rafael Bejarano was aboard Cost of Freedom for a five-furlong work in 59.20 seconds on Sunday morning for trainer John Sadler and is expected to get the nod to replace Cost of Freedom’s regular rider, Tyler Baze, who is sidelined with facial fractures.

Looking for second lightning strike

Last year, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer privately acquired a 2-year-old filly who had defeated maiden-claimers at Calder in her debut. Blind Luck came out to Del Mar for her second start, in a starter-allowance race, won that, and has gone on to become one of the top 3-year-old fillies in the country, her wins including the Kentucky Oaks.

It would be highly unlikely for Hollendorfer to pull off a similar feat two years in a row. But that doesn’t stop him from trying. He acquired Cathy’s Crunches after a powerful debut win against maiden claimers at Calder one month ago, and she will make her first start for him at Del Mar in Wednesday’s first race, a starter-allowance.

“We’re trying to do something we’ve done before, but we’re realistic people,” Hollendorfer said of he and his partners. “We think she’s good, or we wouldn’t have bought her, but we’re realistic, too. In this business, you have to keep on trying to find good horses. Some work out, some don’t.”

Valenzuela has mount

Patrick Valenzuela will ride in California for the first time in nearly three years in Wednesday’s sixth race, less than a week after receiving a jockey’s license from the California Horse Racing Board that requires extensive drug testing.

Valenzuela, who has a history of substance abuse problems, is booked to ride Warrensmysterydice for owner Ben Warren and trainer Jorge Gutierrez in a starter allowance for fillies and mares over six furlongs. Warrensmysterydice is Valenzuela’s only scheduled mount on Wednesday’s eight-race program.

Valenzuela, 47, has ridden primarily in Louisiana this year, winning 70 races from 426 mounts, including stakes wins at Evangeline Downs and Fair Grounds.

Valenzuela has not ridden in California since December 2007 following a drunk driving arrest. Valenzuela has pursued a license in California in recent years, but his request for a conditional license was denied in 2008. He was granted the right to ride last week through a stipulated agreement with the racing board.

The agreement requires Valenzuela to submit to several forms of testing, including through hair follicles. Valenzuela must also attend three meetings a week for treatment of alcoholism through the Winners Foundation, which provides counseling for people in horse racing with substance abuse problems.

A winner of 4,141 Thoroughbred races in his career, Valenzuela won the 1989 Kentucky Derby on Sunday Silence.

Crowded House a Classic candidate

Crowded House, fourth in the Grade 1 Eddie Read Stakes on Sunday in his American debut, is a candidate for the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 28, according to Jamie McCalmont, who represents owner Paul Reddam.

A winner of 2 of 13 starts and $731,276, Crowded House was beaten 3 1/4 lengths by The Usual Q.T. in the Read over 1 1/8 miles on turf, closing from last in a field of seven.

Crowded House has one win in three starts on synthetic tracks, a maiden race on a Polytrack surface at Kempton Park in England in September 2008. Later that season, Crowded House won the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy on turf. Earlier this year, Crowded House was second in a Group 3 race on a Tapeta Footings synthetic track at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai but was ninth, beaten three lengths, in the $10 million Dubai World Cup on that track.

The Pacific Classic is run over 1 1/4 miles on a Polytrack synthetic surface.

“Why not try it?” McCalmont said. “He’s got to come out of this race in good shape.”

Crowded House was trained by Brian Meehan in England and for Saturday’s race. Ben Cecil has taken over training of Crowded House.

– additional reportingby Steve Andersen