Lookin at Lucky, last year's Juvenile champion, stood at a crossroads before making his 3yr old debut in the Rebel. Baffert could not decide which path he wanted his star colt to take, the Rebel, which would be run in Arkansas on conventional dirt, or the San Felipe, in California over synthetic. Baffert flipped back and forth several times before making the decision to ship Lucky to Arkansas. Taking his time to decide seemed to work, seeing as how, Lookin at Lucky prevailed even though having a horrendous trip.
Now Baffert and his talented pupil stand at the very same crossroads yet again, this time deciding weather to stay home and run in the Santa Anita Derby, or to ship out for the Arkansas Derby. As of now Baffert is leaning towards staying home for the Santa Anita Derby. Is this the right choice? Let's compare the two races and find out.
If Lucky were to stay home, he would run over a synthetic track, Pro-Ride to be exact. Lookin at Lucky has already raced once over the Pro-Ride, when second by a head in the Breeders Cup Juvenile, so the surface should not be a problem. Another plus is that Lucky would not have to ship out to Arkansas again, before shipping to Kentucky. He could race right out of the barn in California, then ship straight to Kentucky. Also, Baffert, now has no reason to ship out. He knows his colt can handle dirt, so why ship out again. Lastly, running on synthetics, for his final prep, may just give Lookin at Lucky an advantage, if the trend of synthetic horses moving way up in their first start on dirt, after racing on synthetics.
For this race there are not many minuses. One may be that he will run into a very tough field that could include Caracortado, Interactif, and Sidney's Candy, the top three finishers of the San Felipe. But of course on the flip side, the Arkansas Derby could draw a field just as formidable.
The Arkansas Derby for Lookin at Lucky would mean more shipping, which could take it's toll on the colt, especially if he were to end up shooting for a Triple Crown. Though, Lucky may just be facing many of the horses he already beat in the Rebel, which would be a plus, since he has proven that he is already capable of beating them. This could also further acclimate him to dirt, but just because of his proven ability to run over anything, no matter if it is plastic, dirt, or broken bottles, it may not matter much. Also the recent history of that race, in producing horses that go on to do well in the Triple Crown, might be enticing. Some horses to validate that statement are Afleet Alex, Smarty Jones, and Curlin. All three finished no worse than third in the Triple Crown races.
Either way Baffert decides to go looks like it would work in the long run. I do think, though, that the way he is currently leaning is the best way. A horse needs to be fresh if they are going to win the Derby and then compete in the entire Triple Crown series. Staying home, would mean less traveling overall, which could really affect his chances. But as we all know Baffert is quite capable of changing his mind, and until Lookin at Lucky is actually in the gate for either race, we won't know for sure what way Baffert is truly leaning.