Favored Lookin at Lucky , in the familiar red and yellow Mike Pegram silks for trainer Bob Baffert, jumped into graded company with a three-quarters of a length win in the $150,000 Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO) at Del Mar Aug. 9.
The 2-year-old Smart Strike colt, unbeaten in two starts, becomes a major player for the Del Mar Futurity (gr. 1) on Sept. 7 with his stalking win in the 6 1/2-furlong Best Pal. The Futurity will be run at seven furlongs.
“This is what dreams are made of," said Baffert, who will be inducted into racing's National Hall of Fame on Aug. 14. "There’s nothing like good 2-year-olds in the barn. I’ve thought he had a lot of talent."
Ridden by Garrett Gomez, Lookin at Lucky settled into fourth on the outside as Smiling Tiger went to the lead from the rail under Russell Baze. Smiling Tiger, an eight-length winner of the Lost in the Fog Stakes at Golden Gate Fields in his last start, posted hot early fractions on the Polytrack of :22.28 and :45.42 and kicked away briefly in upper stretch after opening a two-length lead on the turn.
But Lookin at Lucky closed the gap quickly to edge in front on the outside at the eighth pole and proved to be too much under left-handed urging. Make Music for Me ran second. The final time was 1:16.06.
Gomez said he was quite impressed with how Lookin at Lucky finished the race.
"You saw him come back from this," he said. "He wasn’t frazzled or anything like that. He looked like he’d gone out and jogged a mile. He’s very laid back. He’ll handle a distance, too. He’s a nice horse, and I think he’s only going to get better.”
Baffert added, "You know, Garrett doesn’t say a lot about horses, but he’s always thought this one was good. We’ll be back in the Futurity.”
The maiden Make Music for Me broke outwardly with the lead before falling back to fifth under Tyler Baze. But he rallied three wide into the stretch and surged past Smiling Tiger to get the runner-up slot by 1 1/4 lengths. Smiling Tiger settled for third.
“That was a nice move he made around the turn and it tells you what kind of horse he’s going to be," Tyler Baze said of the runner-up. "He’s special. I worked him the other morning, and I was really impressed. And he really doesn’t know what he’s doing yet. He’s going to go on from here. He’s a Futurity horse.”
Lookin at Lucky, owned in partnership by Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, broke his maiden at first asking going six furlongs on the Hollywood Park Cushion Track July 11. He won by three-quarters of a length in 1:10 flat. He was purchased at Keeneland in April for $475,000.
The Best Pal victory was worth $90,000, giving Lookin at Lucky earnings of $123,000 from two starts. Gulf Coast Farms bred the bay in Kentucky. He is out of Private Feeling, by Belong to Me .
Lookin at Lucky carried 119 pounds and paid $4.80, $3 and $2.40. Make Music for Me, fourth against maidens in his only prior start for trainer Alexis Barba, returned $9 and $3.80. The $2 exacta was worth $39.80. The Northern California shipper Smiling Tiger, who won his first two races by a combined 14 lengths, was $2.80 to show.
Russell Baze said that Smiling Tiger probably needed the race after a two-month layoff.
"I’m not taking anything away from the two who finished ahead of us," he said. "They’re both nice horses. But my horse will do nothing but improve off this race."
It was 4 1/2 lengths to fourth-place finisher Hurricane Ike. Classical Slew and Supraman trailed.