Smart and Lucky Make a Great Combination

Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Lookin At Lucky, who was 2009's champion 2-year-old male, should teach shoppers at Thoroughbred auctions an important lesson, according to Jerry Bailey.

"It says to me that when people are buying horses, they should look for reasons to buy a horse rather than for reasons not to buy a horse," said the Florida horseman.

Bailey and Utah horseman Lance Robinson are the managing partners of Gulf Coast Farms, which bred the 3-year-old son of Smart Strike.

In 2008, Lookin At Lucky was a $35,000 buy-back at the Keeneland September yearling sale. Buyers weren't interested in the bay colt for a number of reasons, Bailey said.

Lookin At Lucky had undergone stifle surgery and signs of old OCD lesions and a divot could be seen on radiographs. He had mild sesamoidits, and there were mid-saggital ridge lucencies in his front ankles. His pasterns were a little long and soft. His feet were narrow, and one front foot was smaller than the other. Some people described the smaller foot as a "club foot." He also wasn't very pretty, Robinson remembered.

In other words, Lookin At Lucky wasn't perfect.

The following year, "he was still the same horse; he still had the same deficiences. But he performed great on the racetrack," Bailey said.

Lookin At Lucky worked an eighth of a mile in :10 prior to the Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds in training, and on the same day, his half-brother, Kensei, who would go on to become a grade II winner, won an allowance/optional claiming event at Oaklawn Park.

Mike Pegram purchased the colt for $475,000 from Bailey's sales agency, with trainer Bob Baffert giving the OK in spite of the colt's physical abnormalities.

"Baffert is pretty good at overlooking some of these things if he likes the horse," Bailey said.

Will the saga of Lookin At Lucky make buyers less picky? It probably won't make a significant difference. But maybe one or two will think a little harder before they turn down a young horse tick every single box on X-rays and conformation.

Some people might say Pegram and Baffert were lucky. But Bailey would say they were smart.


Leave a Comment:


Good for Baffert and Pegram to recognize potential in what many would term to be an "ugly duckling."  Lucky has had the last laugh.  Hats off to the Lucky-iest Team in horse racing!

24 May 2010 3:32 PM

Interesting article, but Mr. Baffert also attended that 2008 Sept. Sale and if he saw "Lucky" pased on him then for $35,000. Your story indicates that the horse still had many of his cconformational, etc. issues in that 2 yr. old sale, but perhaps by then displayed more of his positives (aside from the good breeze). Let's assume that most of his physical positives were present as a yearling (along with the negatives), but it took the gallop, etc. and breeze to confirm the utility of those positives (and paritally negate those negatives). It seems that when it comes to conformational issues, positive, or negative, the majority of evidence from any source (veterinarian, trainer, etc.) is no more than anecdotal.  

24 May 2010 4:59 PM

Lots of physical imperfections look better once the horse shows it can perform well on the racetrack in spite of them.

24 May 2010 5:41 PM

It goes to show you never judge a book by its cover

24 May 2010 9:26 PM

It goes to show you never judge a book by its cover

24 May 2010 9:26 PM

Never would I think of myself as anywhere near knowledgeable about the subject, but weren't Seabiscuit and John Henry both known to have serious conformational challenges?  It seems like Seabiscuit was over at the knees or something along those lines, but he sure turned out to be a runner as did John Henry who was also considered not a pretty youngster.

24 May 2010 9:56 PM
LouAnn Cingel of Union, Missouri

Love that Lookin At Lucky!  I knew he had it all along and that's why I stuck with him through thick and thin. I wouldn't mind having him, maybe some of his luck would rub off on me?  Keep on running Lucky!!

25 May 2010 8:53 AM


27 May 2010 3:28 AM

You go, Looking at lucky! Don't pay attention to the nay-sayers! You're beautiful! Remember beauty is in the eys of the beholder.  And your pics even tell me you're beautiful - and a great racehorse!Go lucky! I'm naming one of my kittens after you!

27 May 2010 9:40 AM

I always love a horse who must struggle to gain respect (Seabiscuit, Smarty Jones, John Henry, Mine That Bird, and now Lucky!)  Too much attention has been paid to a horse who has perfect conformation and pedigree.  These attributes are good to have, but absolutely do not guarantee a fighter and a winner!!!

27 May 2010 6:11 PM


Gain respect?  What are you talking about?  He cost $475,000.00 and doubt that Baffert and MP were the only guys bidding on him.  When you spend that kind of money on a horse and add in those connections, they did indeed expect big things from him.  

That being said, Super Saver is still my fav.  

28 May 2010 9:29 AM

Sceptre-must be nice to be a glass half empty guy.

30 May 2010 12:35 PM
Gina Powell

Congrats on Lucky's Preakness win! Anyways, being a smalltime owner/trainer with a limited budget, I have to buy horses with flaws. I have no choice and despite the obsession with diagnostics and pedigree, they can't measure the "desire to win," which is often referred to as the horse with heart. This is what really makes a racehorse. I bought a horse at the Keeneland January sale for $4000. He was an ugly duckling with a bad scope and I made lots of money with him because of his big heart. Lookin At Lucky was banged and bounced around in several races with the ultimate "bang up" happening in the Derby - yet HE STILL TRIED and that made him a champion right there. Any other horse would stop trying and stop running after 1 bump. It seemed obvious to me that given a good trip in the Preakness he would win and the best is yet to come.

30 May 2010 2:36 PM

Lucky was started into training so soon. He did not turn three until Saturday. Think of how young and soft those bones are. He has worked so hard and he is just a baby. No wonder problems show up when you look at x-rays. Baffert knows he just has to hold him together enough to make a stud career for the owners.

What a remarkable horse, he is my favorite horse running right now.

31 May 2010 7:46 AM

it seems so many people who buy thoroughbreds can't resist what they believe to be the "perfect specimen" and boy do they get burned most of the time. Horses like this, Lookin at Lucky, Sunday Silence, Seattle Slew and others who weren't beautiful, perhaps had an imperfection or two, yet turned out to be stars. probably throw in Real Quiet into the mix. remember Northern Dancer? he was supposed to be too small to be much good and didn't fetch the 25,000 reserve so his owner/breeder EP Taylor was stuck with him; hmmm; the rest is history;

31 May 2010 7:49 AM

The positive was the :10 - 1/8th of a mile work.  Not exactly rocket science why he liked him.

31 May 2010 7:54 PM

There aren't that many horses who can be called "perfect." And a lot of times, the perfect horse to one isn't to someone else. Well, people aren't perfect either and yet most of us get by just fine. Skip Away, who everyone knows raced with bone chips is a good example of a horse who could outrun most even though he wasn't perfect. Sunday Silence was dismissed because of his physical flaws and look at what a magnificent racehorse he was. I think people can and do overlook many good horses because they don't rate a 10 on the perfection scale. A few years ago, a horse later called The Green Monkey sold for what - 16 million or something like that? The horse injured himself and never ran well. I read where his buyers called him "perfection." Well, even perfect horses can and do get hurt. It is sad to think anyone would reject a horse because it wasn't perfect enough.

08 Jun 2010 12:37 AM

I know this is late, but I just read this article.... While indeed he is a good horse with great connections, but seeing the "flaws" or prior injuries when x-rayed and scoped, doesn't anything think this is part of the reason these horses break down so easily? I wouldn't have touched him for a western pleasure horse, let alone a race horse.

08 Jun 2010 1:45 PM
Ida Lee

I must have rose colored glasses on because when I see Lucky, I see a beautiful and talented boy who runs like the wind. Sure, he's had some rough trips and it's hard for him to fight back, but he's just turned 3. He'll mature and eventually be the top 3-year old in the country if he is not already.

12 Jun 2010 8:48 PM

Pretty is nothing but eye arthritic readings on a baby before he's even raced are something else...hope he gets to live out his life fairly pain free while he makes everyone lots of money...

13 Jun 2010 6:39 AM
Fran Loszynski

I love the story line in Seabiscuit when Howard was looking to buy a horse and the trainer caught the eye of Seabiscuit in the fog on the track. "The trainer caught the eye of Seabiscuit, tired and torn and the horse looked right at him as if to say "What are you looking at!" That was their horse. If I were an owner I would look for spunk but heart. Jerry Bailey is right you look for what a horse has not what he doesn't. If I were an owner my top horses would have been:

Afleet Alex, Smarty Jones, Seattle Slew, Secretariat, Birdstone, Seabiscuit, and Ruffian.

15 Jun 2010 1:24 PM
Adele Maxon


17 Jun 2010 11:48 AM
Adele Maxon


17 Jun 2010 11:49 AM
Julia O.

I agree with Fran. Lookin at Lucky's story is very similar to Seabiscuit's. I wish Lucky would have run in the Belmont. He would have dominated. But such as life. Thanks for writing great blogs!!

21 Jun 2010 1:16 PM
Fran Loszynski

Julia O.

Never fear Lookin at Lucky will have great offspring someday and there is still alot "Lookin at Lucky". Maybe he will be in the Breeder's Cup. You don't win a Million dollars in such a short time and not be a great champion at heart. His offspring could be named "Lucky's Ticket Home" or "Lucky Like Biscuit"

22 Jun 2010 7:45 AM

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