Horse racing: Lookin At Lucky headed to Preakness
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Lookin At Lucky will be looking for redemption at the Preakness.
Trainer Bob Baffert plans to enter the 3-year-old colt in Saturday's second leg of the Triple Crown, hoping his talented star can avoid the disastrous trip that sent him to a sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
"We just felt like we owed it to him," Baffert said Monday after watching his horse gallop at Churchill Downs.
Lookin At Lucky went off as the 6-1 favorite in the Derby despite starting on the inside of a crowded 20-horse field. The athletic bay struggled with traffic problems all the way around the 1 1/4-mile circuit, leaving Baffert so frustrated he stopped watching the colt early on and focused his attentions on front-running Conveyance, who eventually faded to 15th.
The Hall of Famer waited a week to see how his colt — whom Baffert has nicknamed "Lookin At Aluminum" because of all the trouble he's encountered on the rail in his last two starts — bounced back from the Derby before opting to head to Pimlico.
"He looks great," Baffert said. "His appetite has been good. He seems to be in good spirits."
And so is Baffert, figuring his luck can't get any worse in Baltimore. Lookin At Lucky will only have to deal with a 14-horse field at Pimlico, though Baffert is only half-kidding when he says he'll scratch the horse if he draws the first post again.
If not, Lookin At Lucky could be the biggest threat to Derby winner Super Saver. Baffert is hoping a new setting and a new jockey will help Lucky regain some of his mojo.
Garrett Gomez, who has been on board for all nine of Lookin At Lucky's starts, will instead ride Dublin for trainer D. Wayne Lukas in the Preakness. Baffert said Martin Garcia will likely get the call on Lookin At Lucky on Saturday.
Baffert called the split with Gomez amicable. The trainer and jockey clashed after Lookin At Lucky finished a disappointing third in the Santa Anita Derby. They patched things up before arriving at Churchill Downs, and Baffert didn't blame Gomez for what happened in the Run for the Roses.
Switching riders was a business decision, one Gomez didn't exactly argue with.
"There wasn't a lot of resistance," Baffert said. "I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. He wasn't like 'Pleeeeeease don't take me off this horse.' He understood. We had such bad luck."
Garcia rode Conveyance in the Derby, and Baffert believes the speedy colt could have stolen the race if he hadn't been pushed so hard by Sidney's Candy. Baffert is confident the 25-year-old Garcia will give Lookin At Lucky the clean trip he needs to contend.
"He's been winning everywhere I send him," Baffert said of Garcia.
Yet no jockey in the Preakness is hotter than Calvin Borel, who has won three of the last four Triple Crown races and isn't backing off his claim that he and Super Saver can become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
Super Saver breezed three furlongs in 36.60 seconds with Borel aboard on Monday, the horse's first work since beating Ice Box by 2½ lengths in the Derby.
Borel, who won last year's Preakness aboard Rachel Alexandra, believes Super Saver didn't empty the tank in the slop on Derby Day.
"I think he's getting better," Borel said. "He's doing everything I want to do. He's relaxed. He switches leads on key. He's lightly raced. That's why I like him."
So does trainer Todd Pletcher. He called Super Saver's workout "effortless" and has been impressed with the ease in which his colt has done whatever is asked.
Super Saver went off as the second choice in the Derby, due in part to Borel's remarkable success under the twin spires. Super Saver will likely be the favorite when the field is drawn Wednesday, and his odds could get even shorter if the thunderstorms expected to roll through Pimlico on Friday hold off for an additional 24 hours.
"Good," Pletcher said with a laugh when asked about the forecast.
Super Saver isn't the only Pletcher-trained colt in the Preakness with experience running in the muck. Aikenite finished second to Hurricane Ike in a muddy Derby Trial on April 24, and will join Super Saver at Pimlico.
Pletcher said the decision to send Aikenite to the Preakness was made before Super Saver won the Derby. Aikenite's owners, Dogwood Stable, won the Preakness 20 years ago with Summer Squall.
"As a public trainer, I've got to do what's right for each horse and each individual owner," Pletcher said. "The right thing for Aikenite is to run in the Preakness. It's as simple as that."
Lukas is the last Derby-winning trainer to saddle two horses in the Preakness, sending Derby winner Charismatic and Cat Thief to the gate in 1999.
Charismatic won, while Cat Thief finished in the middle of the pack. While he understands Pletcher's plight, he doesn't think his protege is worried about losing a possible Triple Crown to a stablemate.
"You don't go in there thinking a horse will upset (the Derby winner)," said Lukas, who has won the Preakness five times. "You just start thinking 'if it happens, so be it, we'll all just hug in the winner's circle."