April 2, 2010

Anatomy of a Champion

Lookin at Lucky is the Juvenile Champion of 2009. He has won six of seven starts with only a narrow defeat in a tough trip BC Juvenile. His return to the races in last month’s Rebel Stakes was a top shelf performance. Clearly he is a racehorse who has earned respect. He may not be everyone’s top choice, but you will find him as one of the top three choices on everyone’s Derby list. Respect is the word for Lookin at Lucky, and it is well deserved. Will he win the Derby? Can he possibly be the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown? Those answers will soon unfold, but for now, I would like to give tomorrow’s Santa Anita Derby favorite the props he deserves for what he has already accomplished. He is a champion in every sense of the word. Let’s take a look under the hood and see what makes this horse so good:

Pedigree: (Smart Strike -- Private Feeling by Belong to Me)
Class appears everywhere in the bloodlines of this Kentucky Derby favorite. Sire Smart Strike is already a multiple champion at stud, due in large part to superstar Curlin, but he has sired many other top horses as well. Out of Mr. Prospector and the superlative broodmare Classy N’ Smart, the half brother to champion Dance Smartly has more than realized his regal breeding on the track and the breeding shed. Lookin at Lucky’s female family may not be quite as famous, but you need not look far to see quality. Broodmare sire, Belong to Me is a stakes winning son of the great sire Danzig, who was one of America’s greatest Northern Dancer influences. Private Feeling, Looking at Lucky’s dam, also traces back to Northern Dancer, Native Dancer, and Neartic on the female side, giving her a stellar breeding of both brilliance and staying power. Lookin at Lucky is her best foal, but only one year older, is the winner of last year’s Dwyer and Jim Dandy, Kensei. All and all, Lookin at Lucky has classic breeding in every branch, and should excel even at classic distances.

Connections: Owner: Mike Pegram et al / Trainer: Bob Baffert / Jockey: Garrett Gomez.
While a good owner may not help a horse much on raceday, a bad owner can have detrimental effects. A good owner knows to stay out of the way of their trainers. Pegram and Baffert are longtime buddies and he allows Baffert to do what he does best. There is no trainer better at getting a horse ready for a big race than Bob Baffert, as evidenced by his eight wins in Triple Crown races with Silver Charm, Real Quiet, Point Given, and War Emblem. He is not afraid to work and race his horses, and he knows how to properly prepare them for one race and a series of races. Jockey Garrett Gomez has yet to win the Kentucky Derby, but he has been one of the best riders in the nation for years. It should only be a matter of time before the two-time Eclipse Award winner breaks through on the first Saturday of May.

Versatility: In his short career, Lookin at Lucky has already displayed a great versatility. With a slower early pace, he can stay close to the early lead as seen in his win in the Cash Call Futurity in December. In a stronger pace scenario, Lookin at Lucky has no problem falling behind and making a big stretch run. His last race, the Rebel Stakes, should be proof of that. In the Rebel, Looking at Lucky also showed the ability to overcome. He was bothered in the backstretch and fell much farther back then planned. Lucky was not deterred and got up to win in the final strides. His versatility also shows up in other ways, which is a good sign of a champion. Lookin at Lucky has enough brilliance to be a graded stakes winner sprinting, and he appears to be very strong in the stretch of his two turn races to date. He will have to run even longer in the upcoming races, but has shown no signs coming up short as distances become longer. Lastly our two-year-old champion, has now proven he can run well on either dirt or synthetics. Not a surprise with his breeding, but nice to see nonetheless. I do not know if it will ever happen, but Lucky should also be just fine if ever given the chance on the grass.

Future Projection: Win, lose, or draw tomorrow in a tough Santa Anita Derby, I am a true believer in Lookin at Lucky, and as such, I expect him to have another big season. So much so, that I consider him the most likely winner in Louisville, and it would be a surprise to me, if he did not win at least one leg of this year’s Triple Crown. With his excellent bloodlines, a sturdy frame, and the best of connections, Lookin at Lucky should be a champion that is around for a while, and a threat in many of our biggest races.


Anonymous said...

Yes, way to go Brian! I’m with you 100%, I haven’t been brave enough to say it on my blog yet, but I’ve been saying it to my friends and family; I think he is talented enough to win the Triple Crown, certainly the Derby. It would be amazing if he pulled it off.
Another reason I love him is because he has the same sire as the mighty Curlin, and I love no other horse as much as I love Curlin.:)
Can’t wait to see him in the Santa Anita Derby this weekend.

Kimness said...

Watching that video of the Rebel - it's amazing that he got up to take the photo.

Brian Zipse said...

Uh-oh, it scares me just a bit when you all agree too easily with me.

Kimness said...

It's still early - I want a California based horse to win BAD -just wait til the East coasters read it... LOL

Brian Zipse said...

This could be the year Kim!

LDP said...

I am an east coaster and I love both Lucky and American Lion. I really don't see why ppl continue to say he wins by luck, when in two of his last three starts he was anything but lucky. Sure he doesn't win by blowout margins, but neither does the mighty Zenyatta and people don't doubt her because her largest margin was only four lengths and her average is only about two. LaL is a talented horse who wins because he is just that good.

Anonymous said...

I'm an East Coaster! I just believe in "reaching across the isle." :)

mvlach77 said...

Lucky may need a new jockey. Seems like every race he finds trouble.