Even-money choice Lookin at Lucky remained unbeaten in three starts and gave trainer Bob Baffert his ninth win in the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) (VIDEO) in the past 14 years Sept. 7 at the seaside track.
Baffert capped a huge weekend, winning the last three grade I races of the long weekend of stakes races at Del Mar, including the $300,000 Pat O'Brien with Zensational and the $1-million Pacific Classic with Richard's Kid Sept. 6. He has won five grade I races at the meet.
"It's like the good old days," said Baffert, who won the Futurity seven consecutive years from 1996 to 2002 and last year with Midshipman, who went on capture the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I).
"This horse was in tight most of the way and he learned a lot today. He's quite a horse. I wasn't worried about drawing the rail. He has the speed to get himself in a good place. He's right there with Midshipman in that sense."
Baffert said the Norfolk Stakes (gr. I) on Oct. 4 at Oak Tree at Santa Anita would be next for his star pupil.
Ridden by Garrett Gomez, Lookin at Lucky proved quite tractable in the $300,000 Futurity at seven furlongs, as the young colt was forced to overcome his rail draw. Sixth down the backstretch behind a slow pace, the son of Smart Strike moved up going into the turn in close quarters and waited patiently for a seam to develop between rivals mid-stretch. After claiming the lead, he edged away in the final strides to win by one length over the charging Make Music for Me.
"I've always been impressed with him," Gomez told TVG afterward. "He's been like this since day one. Nothing bothers him. He wants to go farther. He makes the lead and his ears go up. He just does what he has to do. He's just been super-impressive."
Gomez said he wasn't happy with the way the race unfolded, but added, "If you sit down inside there long enough, something is going to happen for you. And I waited and waited and then I was able to push my way out and get him loose. He's a good horse and when you have a good horse, he makes you look good."
Make Music for Me, who was second to Lookin at Lucky in the Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) Aug. 9, rallied impressively again from eighth to gain the second spot over pacesetting Smiling Tiger, who also ran third in the Best Pal.
Racing in the colors of Mike Pegram, Lookin at Lucky is owned in partnership with Karl Watson and Paul Weitman.
Sterling Outlook, an impressive maiden winner in his last start, and Smiling Tiger dueled on the front end through easy opening fractions of :23.00 and :46.01 before Smiling Tiger, ridden by Martin Garcia, took a narrow lead into the stretch. With Lookin at Lucky moving his way up into third on the inside, Smiling Tiger edged away from his pace rival, creating the seam that Gomez was looking for as they approached mid-stretch.
Lookin at Lucky, who had already made a couple of moves in the race to gain a striking position, proved to have one more, edging ahead of Smiling Tiger leaving the sixteenth pole. Under some urging, he opening up the advantage a bit, then withstood the late charge of the maiden Make Music for Me, who rallied down the center of the track. The winning time was 1:22.85 on Del Mar's Polytrack.
Make Music for Me finished second by a half-length under Tyler Baze. Smiling Tiger finished one length ahead of Sterling Outlook.
Baze said Make Music for Me was bothered by some bumping earlier in the race.
"Watch out when we go up to Santa Anita," Baze warned. "Norfolk and Breeders' Cup. Watch out."
A $475,000 purchase at Keeneland in April, Lookin at Lucky began his career July 11 by winning a six-furlong maiden event on Hollywood Park's Cushion Track by three-quarters of a length over Sterling Outlook. He jumped directly into graded stakes action at Del Mar, winning the 6 1/2-furlong Best Pal by the identical margin. The bay has been favored in all three of his races and won each of them in off-the-pace style.
Gulf Coast Farm bred Lookin at Lucky in Kentucky. He is out of Private Feeling, by Belong to Me. With the winning purse of $180,000, Lookin at Lucky has now banked $303,000.
The winner carried top weight of 122 pounds and paid $4, $3 and $2.40. Make Music for Me, trained by Alexis Barba, returned $4.60 and $4 and was part of a$21.40 exacta. Smiling Tiger, from the barn of Northern California-based Jeff Bonde, was $4.80 to show.
Sterling Outlook finished a neck in front of Hurricane Ike. Then came Zip Quik, Who's Up, the filly Champagne d'Oro and Marcello, who is also trained by Baffert.