Lookin At Lucky , buried near the back of the pack on a sloppy track, rallied wide for jockey Martin Garcia to score a popular victory by 1 1/4 lengths in the $510,900 Indiana Derby (gr. II) (VIDEO) on a cloudy day at Hoosier Park Racing and Casino Oct. 2.
Winner of the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) and Izod Haskell Invitational (gr. I) in his most recent prior starts, Lookin At Lucky completed a 3-year-old graded stakes sweep for trainer Bob Baffert and Garcia, who earlier teamed to win the $205,200 Indiana Oaks (gr. II) (VIDEO) with Arnold Zetcher's homebred Always a Princess.
Lookin At Lucky, who is expected to make his next start in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs, went over the $3 million mark in career earnings.
Though he was sent off at odds of 2-5, Lookin At Lucky was coming off a two-month layoff and had missed some training due to an illness after the Haskell. He was also making his only appearance on a sloppy track since finishing sixth as the troubled favorite at Churchill Downs in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). The 3-year-old son of Smart Strike --Private Feeling, by Belong to Me, is now four-for-five on dirt after beginning his career racing on synthetic surfaces in Southern California.
A contested pace involving Indy Bull, Litigation Risk, and Worldly ensued for the opening six furlongs of the Indiana Derby (:22 4/5, :46 4/5, and 1:11 2/5) before Thiskyhasnolimit, ridden by Jamie Theriot, pushed through along the inside to take command going into the final turn and led comfortably into the stretch over Worldly and a couple of others. Mud-soaked Lookin At Lucky, who commenced his bid three furlongs from the wire, closed the gap quickly after settling into the lane and was in control in the final sixteenth. He was timed in 1:43 2/5 for the 1 1/16 miles over a sealed surface.
“I thought he (Lookin At Lucky) would be a little closer,” said Baffert. “Down the backside, I was a little worried. But, he started making his run in the turn. The first thing I asked Martin was ‘What happened? Did you think you were riding Secretariat,’ and he said ‘yes.’ Lucky showed today just how good he is. He accomplished a lot today with the mud and all.”
Baffert won the Indiana Derby last year with Misremembered , who set a track record time of 1:40 4/5.
Thiskyhasnolimit was a clear second by 3 3/4 lengths, with St. Maximus Gato and Eduardo Nunez third.
Lookin At Lucky won for the ninth time in 12 lifetime starts and raised his earnings to $3,007,278 with the winning purse of $294,278 for owners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman. Gulf Coast Farms bred the bay colt, a $475,000 purchase at the 2009 Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds in training.
“I never thought there would be an Indiana Derby,” said Pegram, who was born and raised in Princeton, Ind. “I never thought it would be for a purse of $500,000. I never thought there would be slots at a track. And, I never thought I’d have two partners like Karl (Watson) and Paul (Weitman).”
Lookin At Lucky carried 124 pounds and paid $2.80, $2.10, and $2.10. Second choice Thiskyhasnolimit returned $3.40 and $3 and capped a $12.40 exacta. St. Maximus Gato was $5.80 to show.
Ten lengths behind St. Maximus Gato, Worldly finished fourth, followed by Litigation Risk, Uareoutlaw, Indy Bull, Nacho Friend, and Dabossman.
In the Indiana Oaks, front-running Always a Princess drew off in the stretch under steady handling from Garcia to post her first stakes victory by 3 1/4 lengths.
Always a Princess dictated the pace (:24, :48 2/5, 1:13) and turned back a challenge from Ash Zee and Shaun Bridgmohan on the final turn. She opened up a 1 1/2-length advantage mid-stretch and drew off from there, coming home in 1:43 3/5, just one-fifth of a second off Lookin At Lucky's time a half-hour later.
“I was on the lone speed in this race and wanted to get out and take advantage of that,” said Garcia. “I had plenty of horse and when I asked her, she responded.”
Ash Zee finished second by 2 3/4 lengths over 8-5 favorite Harissa, ridden by Carlos Marquez Jr.
Kentucky-bred Always a Princess is by Leroidesanimaux --Gabriellina Giof, by Ashkalani. She has had four prior starts, breaking her maiden at first asking in September 2009 before running second in the Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I) and fifth in the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). In her only start this year prior to the Indiana Oaks, she won an optional claiming race at six furlongs at Del Mar Sept. 8 by two lengths.
“She broke well and had a nice clean break,” said Baffert. “It’s good to know she handled the track. You never know how a horse is going to handle these tighter turns, and she had no trouble.”
The chestnut filly earned $121,889 for her Indiana Oaks victory, boosting her career total to $304,889.
Always a Princess paid $6.80, $4.40, and $3 and keyed a $25.60 exacta. Thiskyhasnolimit, winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes at Parx Racing at Philadelphia Park in her last start for trainer Steve Asmussen, returned $4.60 and $3. Harissa was $3 show.
Seeking the Title, W W American, and Fuzzy Britches completed the order of finish. Shakaleena was scratched.