09/30/2010 2:13PM

Lookin At Lucky provides star power in Indiana Derby

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ANDERSON, Ind. – They’ve had some good horses stroll around the seven-furlong oval at Hoosier Park. A Breeders’ Cup winner, Cash Run, had a race here, and the track’s signature event, the Indiana Derby, has been won by millionaires Perfect Drift, Brass Hat, Misremembered, and another Breeders’ Cup winner, Orientate.

But there will be a new level of equine prestige at Hoosier on Saturday, when Lookin At Lucky goes as a huge favorite in the 16th running of the Grade 2, $500,000 Indiana Derby. He will be the first winner of a Triple Crown event to run in the race.

Track officials are nearly giddy with the prospect of showcasing the 2010 Preakness winner, a champion who, after Saturday, will make his next start as one of the main contenders in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“We are extremely grateful to have a horse the caliber of Lookin At Lucky coming here,” said Jeff Smith, general manager of racing at Hoosier.

Out of circumstance, the Indiana Derby became the hand-picked spot for trainer Bob Baffert, who initially wanted to run Lookin At Lucky in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 25. But when the colt missed some training with a minor illness following his smashing victory in the Aug. 1 Haskell Invitational, Baffert found the timing of the Indiana Derby made it the most suitable prep toward the Nov. 6 BC Classic at Churchill Downs.

“This is a really good spot for him,” Baffert said. “I’ve got him ready to run again. We’ll get this race under him and then start looking at the Breeders’ Cup.”

Lookin At Lucky, with Martin Garcia to ride, will break from post 6 in the Indiana Derby, which is run at 1 1/16 miles. Nine 3-year-olds are entered, although one longshot, Indy Bull, is cross-entered in an undercard race for statebreds.

Lookin At Lucky has been pegged at 5-2 on the Hoosier morning line but will probably be closer to 2-5 on Saturday, when he goes for his ninth victory in 12 career starts. He was an Eclipse Award winner as the top 2-year-old of 2009, and after some tough trips in several races this year, notably in a sixth-place finish as the Kentucky Derby favorite, he hit his groove by winning the Preakness and Haskell.

Several challengers can pull an upset if Lookin At Lucky stubs his toe. They include Thiskyhasnolimit, a three-time stakes winner exiting a victory in the $300,000 Smarty Jones Stakes in Philadelphia; Worldly, who has been narrowly beaten in back-to-back stakes, most recently the Ohio Derby; Nacho Friend, a consistent colt who was the Smarty Jones runner-up; and Uareoutlaw, a Brazilian import making his Northern Hemisphere debut for new trainer Mike Maker.

The Indiana Derby anchors a 14-race Saturday card, the first in track history for a Thoroughbred program with more than $1 million in purses. First post will be 12:35 p.m. Eastern, with the Indiana Derby, the 12th race, set for 6:02 p.m. HRTV will have extensive on-site coverage.

Supporting events Saturday include the Grade 2, $200,000 Indiana Oaks (race 11) and the $100,000 Michael G. Schaefer Mile (race 10). Four $84,000 stakes for Indiana-breds are carded earlier. A 50-cent pick-four wager ends with the Indiana Derby.