Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lookin at the Goodwood?

Lookin at Lucky, last year’s Juvenile champion and this year’s leading candidate for male 3 year old honors has been nothing short of spectacular. Was he the most dominant colt earlier this year? The answer is no, not to the naked eye at least. He won his 2010 debut by a head, but only after clipping heels on the backstretch and going 4 wide off the turn. In the Santa Anita Derby he was shoved into the rail, just as the field was turning for home, before regaining his composure and running on for third.

After his two preps came the horrendous Derby. On paper he was the beaten co-favorite, finishing sixth. Being run into the rail a total of three times, essentially losing all chance before the first turn, can explain that finish. It was in the Preakness Lucky’s Luck finally turned. The short margin, however, still left questions to his dominance. Was he really just barely the best of a mediocre field, or did three straight horrible trips just take the starch out of him?

Lucky came back and answered that question empathetically in the Haskell Invitational. It was a short field, but nonetheless a strong one, containing, First Dude the Preakness runner-up, Ice Box the Derby runner-up, Super Saver the Derby winner, and Trappe Shot the young impressive upstart. Lucky ran away with the field by over 4 lengths, in spectacular fashion. With that win Lookin at Lucky was all set to clean up the three year old division and launch a new assault on Horse of the Year.

Unfortunately, the travel took its toll on the impressive colt. He came out of the race with a fever that delayed his return to his California base and knocked him out of training for weeks. The illness cost him valuable time and could have a negative effect on his form. That kind of setback this close to the Breeders’ Cup Classic is never easily made up.

Bob Baffert, the colt’s trainer has now been put in a bind. There is no way he can have Lookin at Lucky ready for another ship across the county for the September 25 Pennsylvania Derby. Baffert has already stated that shipping so much this season took its toll on the colt, so shipping out of town for a later date, closer to the Breeders’ Cup, may not be a wise idea. What race could possibly be a good prep that gives Lucky enough time to become race ready and doesn’t require a ship out of state?

The Goodwood, during Oak Tree’s meet, at Hollywood Park would be the best options. It may not be conventional dirt, but it is the track in California that most resembles the surface. It is nine furlongs, which may leave more left in the tank for Lookin at Lucky than a race at 10 furlongs might. It also gives him a chance to face his elders, and another up and coming colt in Twirling Candy.

So, is the Goodwood the right way to go? Do you think Baffert should take a shot and ship out to Belmont for the Gold Cup? Would trying to make the PA Derby still be a good idea? The Goodwood certainly presents the most pluses and looks like the most logical choice at this stage for Lookin at Lucky.


  1. What a long strange trip it has been for the ironically named colt. Seemingly on top of the world after the Haskell, but then another fever hits and the Haskell also-rans do not impress in the Travers. Personally, I do not think he will beat his elders in the Classic, however; it is hard to knock a horse who has run well every single try. As far as his next race, not sure about going back on synthetics, but you make some good points for the Goodwood. I'd love to see him face Twirling Candy.

  2. I think the top three that came in after lucky in the Haskell had legit excuses. Trappe Shot may just be a mid distance horse. I never saw him as a 10 furlong colt, that may be just me, but I thought he would've done better had he been put in the Kings Bishop instead. Super Saver was found to have bone bruising on all four cannons, which could explain his poor performances. First Dude, is always there. I wouldn't say he ran poorly, he ran third. Ice Box, I've never thought too much of. However, those who came in just behind Lucky all had legit excuses IMO.

  3. I think the Goodwood would be the most viable option for Lookin At Lucky. He's already proven he can transfer from synthetics to dirt, and keeping him at home would be less strenuous on a colt who has already had his share of stress yet has endured the bad times like a pro and a champ.

    But I would also consider this: unless Lookin At Lucky runs like he did in the Haskell--and this time it would be against his elders--I would seriously consider skipping the Breeders' Cup altogether. Maybe give him one more race in late November or early December--depending on what is available and if it suits him--and then put him away until 2011; or perhaps just give him the rest of the year off after the Goodwood.

    I don't know what the connections' plans are for LAL next year, whether to race him or breed him, but if he can get all this adversity behind him, and stay healthy, he could be one of the best older horses in the country; maybe even the best, depending on who else is returning. The way Lookin At Lucky has handled himself, he's very mature and "older" now already and has been for a long time. I'm not referring to precocity, I'm referring to maturity. That is what I'd rather see than trying to have him play catch-up just to make the Breeders' Cup (sound familiar? Rachel trying to make Apple Blossom; that didn't work either).

    It's so easy to admire and love this horse for all the lousy things that have happened to him since last year's Breeders' Cup. If it isn't race scenarios and post positions, it's illness. This poor horse has never run a bad race, despite all these things happening to him. If he can return as a four-year-old, we might really have something special; not that we don't already.