Lookin at Lucky and Noble's Promise, two of the leading sophomores in the nation and separated by just a half-length last time out, will meet again in a highly-anticipated edition of the $750,000 CashCall Futurity (gr. I) Dec. 19 at Hollywood Park.
A field of eight 2-year-olds was drawn for the 1 1/16-mile Futurity, which will be run on the Cushion Track surface. Lookin at Lucky is one of three entrants from the barn of Bob Baffert, who has won this event four different times, including last year with Pioneerof the Nile. Baffert has been quoted as saying that Lookin at Lucky is the best 2-year-old he’s trained "in the last five years.”
A son of Smart Strike—Private Feeling, by Belong to Me, Lookin at Lucky was beaten a head by longshot Vale of York in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) Nov. 7 at Santa Anita after a wide trip from post 13. It was the only loss in five starts for the bay colt, who broke his maiden at Hollywood in July, and then reeled off stakes wins in the Best Pal (gr. II), Del Mar Futurity (gr. I), and Norfolk (gr. I). The Oct. 4 Norfolk at Santa Anita was his first try at two turns.
A $475,000 Keeneland April 2-year-old in training purchase, Lookin at Lucky has already earned $843,000 for owners Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman. Pegram has won the Futurity twice with Baffert, in 1997 with Real Quiet and 1999 with Captain Steve. Baffert also won the race in 2000 with Point Given.
Though stabled at Santa Anita, Lookin at Lucky turned in his final tune-up at Hollywood Park on Dec. 15, getting four furlongs in :47.20. He worked over the Hollywood oval because of drainage problems at Santa Anita.
Lookin At Lucky could clinch an Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding 2-year-old with a victory.
Garrett Gomez, aboard Pioneerof the Nile for Baffert last year, has the return mount on Lookin at Lucky and they will break from post 1.
Baffert will also saddle Peachtree Stable’s Marcello and Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable’s The Program. Marcello was runner-up in the Generous Stakes (gr. IIIT) Nov. 28 on the Hollywood turf, while The Program was second in a 1 1/16-mile allowance contest one day earlier on the main track. Both horses worked in company Dec. 15 at Hollywood, each clocking a half-mile time of :48-flat.
Owned by Chasing Dreams Racing 2008, Noble’s Promise led in deep stretch in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile before being caught in the final yards to finish third by a half-length. It was a big effort for the son of Cuvee, who broke his maiden on the turf in September at Ellis Park, won the Fitz Dixon Jr. Memorial Juvenile Stakes at Presque Isle Downs three weeks later, and pulled a 12-1 upset in the $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland Oct. 1.
Ken McPeek trains Noble’s Promise, who has remained at Santa Anita since the Breeders’ Cup and had a four-furlong work in :49.4 Dec. 15 as a final tune-up. Robby Albarado will take over the riding duties from Willie Martinez and they will break from post 6.
McPeek said he expects an even better effort from his charge this time around, mainly due to the fact that Noble's Promise missed a key work heading into the Breeders' Cup.
"We were completely behind the eight-ball going into the Breeders' Cup. Really, it's a miracle that he ran as well as he did and got third," McPeek said on Dec. 17. "I think he's going to be hard to beat this time. He fit and he's ready. All signs point to a big race."
$750,000 CashCall Futurity (gr. I, Race 9, 4:35 p.m.), 2YO, 1 1/16 Miles (Cushion Track) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Lookin At Lucky (KY), G K Gomez, 121, B Baffert
2. Brady Blue Eyes (KY), J Talamo, 121, M Glatt
3. The Program (KY), V Espinoza, 121, B Baffert
4. Marcello (KY), J Valdivia Jr., 121, B Baffert
5. Make Music for Me (KY), M E Smith, 121, A Barba
6. Noble's Promise (KY), R Albarado, 121, K G McPeek
7. Seattle Ruler (KY), M Garcia, 121, M Harrington
8. Wildlee Special (KY), A O Solis, 121, R E Dutrow, Jr.