If the 3-year-old picture in 2010 was muddled before the $1 million IZOD Haskell Invitational (gr. I) (VIDEO), it isn't any longer. Preakness (gr. I) winner Lookin At Lucky put away Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Super Saver at the top of the stretch and annihilated a star-filled field Aug. 1 before a crowd of 40,904 at Monmouth Park.
Jockey Martin Garcia took 6-5 choice Lookin At Lucky off the rail early and tracked the leaders in fourth to the far turn, where he drew even with Super Saver leaving the bend. It looked briefly like there might be a real scuffle between the two classic winners but Lookin At Lucky quickly took command, pulling away without a challenge to win by four lengths. Trappe Shot finished second, followed by First Dude , who nosed Super Saver for third.
A year after Rachel Alexandra completed the Preakness/Haskell double en route to Horse of the Year honors, Lookin At Lucky has accomplished the same feat -- against a Haskell field many consider the deepest in the race's 43-year history.
"I thought he'd run something like that," trainer Bob Baffert told ABC immediately after winning his record fourth Haskell. "He was sitting on a real big race. He's been training unbelievably. It was nice to see him finally come out of his shell."
Lookin At Lucky, a son of Smart Strike --Private Feeling, by Belong to Me, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.83 over a fast track. The Haskell featured a Derby and a Preakness winner for the first time in the race's history.
A field of seven lined up for the Haskell after the scratch of Uptowncharlybrown , who spiked a fever the morning of the race.
First Dude, coming off a close third to Drosselmeyer in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) June 5, took the lead from Our Dark Knight soon after the start and led that one by about a half-length for six furlongs while posting reasonable fractions of :23.52, :47.95 and 1:12.51. Lookin At Lucky, leaving from the rail, bobbled at the start but recovered well and was angled off the inside to stalk the pace in fourth by Garcia. There was little change among the leaders down the backstretch.
Three wide on the far turn, Lookin At Lucky advanced to battle head-and-head with Super Saver and Calvin Borel to his inside leaving the quarter pole, then drew clear when asked by Garcia.
Lookin At Lucky led by 2 1/2 lengths mid-stretch and continued to pour it on in the final furlong under mild encouragement from Garcia. Second choice Trappe Shot also raced off the rail for Alan Garcia and tracked Lookin At Lucky around the final bend. He waited for room leaving the quarter pole, then swung out four wide for the drive. He finished well but was no match for the winner while three-quarters of a length in front of First Dude and Ramon Dominguez zat the wire.
In his first start since the Preakness, Super Saver tired in the stretch to just miss the show spot. Afleet Again, Derby runner-up Ice Box and Our Dark Knight followed.
"He broke fine and Martin eased him to the outside," Baffert said of the winner. "I knew we’d lose a little bit of ground, but that was the winning move.
“At the three-eighths pole, that’s when you know you’ve got a good horse because they’ll be pulling you. Martin was still sitting, but when he pushed the button, the horse really took off. You can’t make that move on synthetic, but on dirt it was the winning move. That’s really what I like to see -- running fast horses on fast tracks."
Baffert has always maintained that Lookin At Lucky was a better horse on dirt than on synthetic surfaces, which the colt has raced on for most of his career.
“I’ve been coming here since 1997 when we ran Anet,” Baffert said. “Win, lose or draw, I know we’ll have a great time at Monmouth.”
Garcia, who picked up the mount on Lookin at Lucky prior to the Preakness, knows his colt very well.
“I’ve been working this horse for a long time now,” Garcia said. “Bob told me, ‘You know you’re on the best horse. Just give him a breather and then send him.’
"I moved him to the outside because I knew I was on a super horse and I wanted to keep him out of trouble. I knew I was on the best horse.”
Owned by Michael Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Lookin At Lucky has been considered the best of his generation since winning five of six starts, including three grade I races, to garner honors as the nation's top male juvenile in 2009.
He had not raced since a three-quarter-length victory over First Dude in the Preakness May 15, atoning for a troubled sixth-place effort as the 6-1 favorite in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands two weeks earlier. He finished seven lengths behind Super Saver over a sloppy track at Churchill Downs that day after a rough start from the rail.
The bay colt missed about a week of training between the Preakness and the Haskell, but turned in five solid works this month.
Lookin At Lucky, who earned $600,000 for the Haskell win, improved his record to 8-1-1 in 11 starts. He has banked $2,713,000.
Baffert had been tied with Jimmy Croll and Sonny Hine as the all-time leader with three Haskell winners each. The Southern California trainer previously won Monmouth's signature race with Point Given (2001), War Emblem (2002) and Roman Ruler (2005).
Carrying high weight of 122 pounds, Lookin At Lucky paid $4.40, $3 and $2.40.
Trappe Shot, making his graded stakes debut for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, returned $3.40 and $2.60 and completed a $17.20 exacta.
McLaughlin said of Trappe Shot: “He ran well, very well. We were second to a top horse. We’re disappointed because we think an awful lot of this horse. But this race is the best of the best, and right now we’re in second place.”
First Dude, who has now rattled off in-the-money performances in the Blue Grass (gr. I), Preakness and Belmont in consecutive starts, was $3 to show.
“He got challenged a little earlier on the lead more than I would have liked, but I guess every trainer with a horse on the lead says that," trainer Dale Romans said. "I was happy with the way he dug in.”
Monmouth set an all-time record for Haskell handle of $4,463,736. The total handle for the 14-race card was $17,442,170, second highest ever for a non-Breeders’ Cup program, and just a shade under the 2008 mark of $17,642,955, when $4,257,409 was bet on the Haskell.
"We couldn’t have asked for a better day,” said Dennis R. Robinson, president and CEO of the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority. “Racing, wagering and attendance, it was an across-the-board winner. The fans really came out for a great day and an exceptional race."