09/30/2009 12:00AM

Lookin at Lucky mature beyond his years

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Benoit & Associates
Jockey Garrett Gomez and Lookin at Lucky have teamed to go 3 for 3.

ARCADIA, Calif. - If they win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile again this fall, trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Garrett Gomez will be less surprised than one year ago.

Midshipman was a project before he became a champion. He worked so slow that one top jockey told Baffert he never wanted to work the horse again. Midshipman needed blinkers. He showed only minor promise until August and required specific strategy.

Fast forward to 2009, and ask Baffert to compare unbeaten 2-year-old Lookin at Lucky to last year's BC Juvenile winner Midshipman. He shakes his head and replies, "Two totally, completely different horses."

Lookin at Lucky, 3 for 3 including the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity, enters fall as the top 2-year-old in California. A trainer's duty is to be spokesperson-cheerleader for top horses, but sometimes you can tell what a trainer truly believes by what he does not say. When he describes Lookin at Lucky, Baffert holds back.

He talks about the colt with deliberate, measured narrative. He believes the son of Smart Strike is good, scary good. He tries to temper enthusiasm and then opens up.

"He's different from any 2-year-old we've had," Baffert said. "He's the perfect 2-year-old. He does things effortlessly."

And he came around sooner than expected.

"I don't know why, but the really good ones get ready early, they come around, they get there quick," Baffert said.

Lookin at Lucky, a $425,000 2-year-old, is owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman.

After Lookin at Lucky had been working for one month in May, Baffert told Pegram, "Man, I think he's a pretty good horse." Pegram asked when the horse would be ready for his debut, guessing September or October. "He'll be ready at Hollywood," Baffert said.

Gomez rode the colt in his July 11 debut, a six-furlong race he won by three-quarters of a length.

"Garrett doesn't usually say much, but he came back and said 'This colt's okay,' " Baffert recalled.

One month later when he won the Grade 2 Best Pal at Del Mar, Gomez told Baffert "This guy is the real deal."

It is high praise from the understated Gomez. Why is this colt is so special at age 2?

"Because mentally, he's going on 4," Gomez said. "Nothing bothers him. I tell him what to do, and he does it."

Gomez calls it "mental stability" and said Lookin at Lucky is exceptional. "With babies, even ones that try to do the right thing, they don't know where that line is and they cross it. They go from zero to 60, instead of going from zero to 20. [Lookin at Lucky] only does what you ask him to do, and then he waits for his next command."

Three wins by Lookin at Lucky have been by a combined total of 2 1/2 lengths. He gets to the front and stays there, without doing more than necessary.

"You can see he wants to be a good horse," Gomez said. "Mentally, he's just got it."

Combined with above-average physical ability, it appears Lookin at Lucky, a half-brother to Grade 2 Jim Dandy winner Kensei, is going places. Lookin at Lucky faced adversity last out in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity. Baffert was not concerned.

"When he drew the one-hole, usually I would get a pit in my stomach," Baffert said. "I didn't really care. It didn't matter."

Lookin at Lucky made "two or three moves" in the race, according to Gomez, yet was able to quicken in the lane. He won the seven-furlong race by a length and stretches out Sunday to 1 1/16 miles in the Grade 1 Norfolk.

The Norfolk will be run at Santa Anita, over the same track the Breeders' Cup Juvenile will be run Nov. 7. Assuming he runs well in the Norfolk, Lookin at Lucky will run in the Juvenile after training and racing on synthetic through summer fall.

Baffert was asked if the surface provides a built-in, home-court edge for Lookin at Lucky.

"The advantage you have is that you have a really good horse," he said.