Bob Baffert, who trains Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) contender Lookin At Lucky, said he believes Zenyatta must win the Nov. 6 race in order to earn the 2010 Horse of the Year award.
Zenyatta, a winner in five grade I starts this year against fillies and mares, is the 8-5 favorite for the Classic at Churchill Downs. Her trainer, John Shirreffs, has been quoted as saying it would be a “slap in the face,” if his undefeated mare does not win Horse of the Year, even if she loses the Classic.
Todd Pletcher, who trains BC Classic contender Quality Road, disagreed with Shirreffs assessment earlier in the week, and on Nov. 4 Baffert echoed those sentiments.
“She has to win,” Baffert said. “Only because they sort of stayed in California with her and didn’t really venture out. She has to win here on the dirt; she did it last year, she was phenomenal, but she did it on a synthetic track so there’s always going to be that question mark. If she does it here on dirt, on these grounds, that’s what it’s all about.
“But she’s supposed to win, so I don’t think they’re worried about it, they’re pretty confident. It’s going to be a great race. There’s always, ‘Well, maybe this time,’ and eventually they all get beat, but she’s just amazing. Win, lose, or draw, she’s a great mare that’s been so good for the business. We have a lot of respect for her.”
Lookin At Lucky, who can make a very strong case for Horse of the Year if he wins the Classic, went to the track along with Juvenile Fillies morning-line favorite A Z Warrior immediately after the renovation break on Thursday, jogging a circuit and galloping one mile under exercise rider Jorge Alvarez.
“He looks good, so far so good,” said Baffert. “He’ll run his race. We’re all going to find out how tough we are; it’s a great race, really good top horses in there. I think he’s up to it. He’s still a young horse so I don’t know how he fits in right now going a mile-and-a-quarter. He’s tough, though, 2-year-old champion and going to be 3-year-old champion. He keeps going and going.”
Baffert said there are no plans to retire Lookin At Lucky at the end of the season, although offers have been made to buy the colt for stud duty.
“So far we haven’t made any plans,” he said. “There are people that have been trying to buy him for a stallion, but these owners just enjoy racing. You get a good horse like that, you want to watch him run.”
Lookin At Lucky, by Smart Strike--Private Feeling, by Belong to Me, is owned Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman. He has won four of six starts in 2010, including the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) and Haskell Invitational (gr. I). The Classic will be his first race against older horses.
Zenyatta, a 6-year-old daughter of Street Cry, left Barn 41 at 9:15 a.m. and was followed by hundreds of fans, including owners Jerry and Ann Moss.
With regular exercise rider Steve Willard aboard, the mare was led with a pony to the back of Churchill Downs’ one-mile chute where she stood for approximately 10 minutes before making her way to the main track for a 1 1/2-mile gallop.
“She galloped beautifully,” Shirreffs said. “She’s very happy. On the second day of taking her to the track, you might think she’d be a little flat but she was full of energy. Steve said he could have gone around another time, and as the trainer, that’s what you look for - the enthusiasm and good energy.”