05/22/2015 1:54PM

Sparkman: Young sire making his own Luck

Barbara D. Livingston
Madefromlucky's victory in the Peter Pan gave Lookin At Lucky his sixth stakes winner.

In the 35 years since Spectacular Bid followed up his champion 2-year-old male campaign with another championship campaign at 3, only one horse has completed a similar double. From the end of World War II through the 1970s, though, such a championship double was fairly common, and, indeed had been throughout the 20th century in America.

In the 32 years from Citation in 1947-48 through Spectacular Bid in 1978-79, 10 horses were voted champions of their age group in both their first and second seasons in training. By definition, those 10 horses had done just about everything the commercial market requires of a stallion prospect, so it is no surprise that the accompanying list is also a pretty impressive list of sires as well. And if one adds in Northern Dancer, who was champion 2-year-old in Canada in 1963 and champion 3-year-old in the United States in 1964, the list becomes even more impressive.

The one horse to join that list since Spectacular Bid is Lookin At Lucky, who followed up his 2009 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male with another statuette in 2010 for champion 3-year-old male. Lookin At Lucky’s first foals are now 3-year-olds, and he is showing signs of adding to the impressive stallion numbers generated by his predecessors. Madefromlucky, winner of the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes on May 9, is his sixth stakes winner, and given the impressive form of others from his first crop, including Santa Anita Derby runner-up One Lucky Dane, there will be many more to come.

Bred in Kentucky by Jerry Bailey’s and Lance Robinson’s Gulf Coast Farms, Lookin At Lucky was from the 10th crop of his sire, Smart Strike, and was offered at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2008 with Smart Strike in the midst of his second consecutive season as leading sire in America and just two weeks after Smart Strike’s best son, Curlin, had won the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes.

Despite his parentage, Lookin At Lucky was cataloged in the second week of the September sale no doubt because of his clubby left front foot and toed-out front legs. Those conformation defects also doubtless contributed to the colt failing to meet his reserve at a hammer price of $35,000. Bailey and Robinson had made their name by pinhooking yearlings to 2-year-old sales, and once Lookin At Lucky worked a furlong in 10 seconds at the 2009 Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds in training, there was no doubt that he would bring far more than $35,000 regardless of his conformation defects.

Mike Pegram paid $475,000 for the big Smart Strike colt through trainer Bob Baffert, and it did not take Baffert very long to get him to the races. Lookin At Lucky made his debut in a six-furlong maiden race at Hollywood Park on July 11, 2009, and rallied from a couple lengths off the pace to beat Sterling Outlook by three-quarters of a length in 1:10.11.

Following Baffert’s usual pattern with his good colts, he made his next start a month later at Del Mar in the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes and made the testing jump from maiden to graded stakes look easy with another three-quarter-length victory over Make Music for Me. The seven-furlong, Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity a month later was a foregone conclusion as Lookin At Lucky won again from Make Music for Me, this time by a full length.

Victory the following month in the Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita served as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but luck turned against him in the big race. Drawn in the outside post 13, Lookin At Lucky was five wide on the first turn and much farther behind than ideal, then was forced even wider as he rallied coming off the final turn. Lookin At Lucky was fastest of all, but Vale of York got through inside him and held him off by a lucky head.

Lookin At Lucky closed his juvenile season and clinched a championship by beating Noble’s Promise in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity. In retrospect, however, it was not an outstanding crop of juveniles. Only one of the horses he defeated in his five wins at 2 ever won a Grade 1 stakes, and that horse, Smiling Tiger, did not register that achievement until he was 3.

Lookin At Lucky showed he had trained on in his first start at 3, beating Noble’s Promise again, this time by a head, in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes, but despite his name, luck abandoned him in his next two starts. In the Santa Anita Derby, he was shut off and forced to check hard while moving up along the rail on the far turn but rallied gamely to finish third to Sidney’s Candy. In the Kentucky Derby, Lookin At Lucky drew the dreaded No. 1 post and was bounced off the inside rail twice within the first eighth of a mile. Eighteenth of 20 heading into the first turn, Lookin At Lucky made a tremendous run through the field around the far turn, but could do no more in the final eighth, finishing sixth, just behind Make Music for Me and Noble’s Promise.

Luck finally returned in the Preakness, where Lookin At Lucky was able to get a good stalking position and make an untroubled run for a three-quarter-length victory over First Dude. After a brief rest, Lookin At Lucky scored perhaps his most impressive victory in the Haskell Invitational, as usual stalking the pace before drawing off for an easy four-length victory over Trappe Shot.

Lookin At Lucky spiked a fever after the Haskell and used a comfortable victory in the Grade 2 Indiana Derby as his Breeders’ Cup Classic prep. Well-placed early, he advanced menacingly on the turn but could not match the closing speed of Blame, Zenyatta, and Fly Down and finished fourth, beaten 3 3/4 lengths.

Lookin At Lucky retired to Ashford Stud in 2011 with a record of 9 wins in 13 career starts, but three of his four defeats had been very unlucky. Only the Breeders’ Cup Classic, where he appeared not to stay the 1 1/4 miles as well as Blame or Zenyatta, could be called a true bill in defeat, and there was no shame in that.

His pedigree, while not a slam dunk, was certainly good enough. His year-older half-brother, Kensei, by Mr. Greeley, had won the Grade 2 Jim Dandy and Dwyer, and his dam, winner Private Feeling, by Belong to Me, was a half-sister to Grade 3 winner Grand Charmer, grandam of champion 3-year-old filly Wait a While, by Maria’s Mon. The rest of the immediate family was certainly respectable and traced to his ninth dam, Rose Leaves, dam of five-time leading sire Bull Lea.

Lookin At Lucky’s first 2-year-olds showed promise last year with Lucky Player (out of Janetstickettocats, by Storm Cat) winning the Grade 3 Iroquois, and Good Luck Gus (Tacticmove, by Deputy Minister), Four Leaf Chief (Pentatonic, by Cure the Blues), and Spider’s Alibi (Miss Missile, by Golden Missile) all earning restricted black type.

Madefromlucky won 1 of 4 starts last year but emerged as a class horse when he finished second, albeit a long way behind, to American Pharoah in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn. His victory in the Peter Pan was his first start since his fourth in American Pharoah’s Arkansas Derby.

Madefromlucky, bred in Kentucky by RMF Thoroughbreds, is the fifth foal out of Home from Oz, by Pulpit, an unraced full sister to 2014 and current 2015 leading sire Tapit. Her fourth foal, A Shin Gold, by Medaglia d’Oro, ran second in the Japan Dirt Derby. Tapit had not yet won the Laurel Futurity when Home From Oz sold for only $5,000 at the 2003 Keeneland September yearling sale, and she sold for only $105,000 to Lonnie Owens, agent, as a maiden at the 2005 Keeneland January sale.

In addition to Tapit, Madefromlucky descends from the family of the outstanding sire Relaunch and the very good sire Glitterman, as well as champions Rubiano and Summer Bird. Madefromlucky is scheduled to take on American Pharoah again in the Belmont Stakes, and if he wins a Grade 1, he will certainly be given an excellent opportunity at stud.

He will have a long way to go, however, to match the success of stallions with race records similar to those of his sire. As shown in the accompanying table, six of the 10 dual champions from 1947-48 to 1978-79 must be considered good to great sires. Spectacular Bid, who sired only one Grade 1 winner, Spectacular Love, among his 44 stakes winners, was clearly the worst, since Citation, while far from being a really good sire, managed to produce champion Silver Spoon and Preakness winner Fabius.

There are, of course, no guarantees in Thoroughbred breeding, but being both champion 2-year-old and champion 3-year-old may be about as close as we get to guaranteeing success at stud for a young stallion.