By Rob Fundter, The Amateur Capper
After winning the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for his undefeated, six race G.1 2009 campaign, the Irish “Horse of the World” may skip the Breeders’ Cup; the new star of the “World Thoroughbred Championship” weekend…it’s locally based LOOKIN AT LUCKY!
The Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships may have to endure another major defection of a 3 y.o. with uncommon ability. RACHEL ALEXANDRA has been shut down for the year…old news. After a dazzling Arc win, SEA THE STARS is more unlikely to ship to Santa Anita than his connections led the media to believe in the weeks leading into the storied race at Longchamp. The absence of both horses will be disappointing, no doubt. Fret not, horse racing fans…as Yoda from the Star Wars series once predicted when Anakin Skywalker was lost to the dark side, “There is another…”
LOOKIN AT LUCKY made the G.1 Norfolk S. look deceptively easy. For just over ¾ of the race, the professionalism that he showed in three prior wins was on display from the young son of SMART STRIKE.
He usually breaks well and rates kindly until GARRETT GOMEZ gives him the cue to “go”. Even when he broke from the rail in the G.1 Del Mar Futurity, he waited patiently at the rear until GOMEZ decided to chance a rail run or sweep around horses on the backside and turn. LOOKIN AT LUCKY runs inside, between horses, and can sweep around his competition. He has a magnificent stride, effortless and simple. LOOKIN AT LUCKY exudes class in every race he runs. His dominance of the Southern California juvenile crop was emphasized in the Norfolk S. stretch run.
The 1 ¾ length margin of victory was a testament to the immense talent of the BOB BAFFERT trainee. It sure wasn’t because he was giving 100% the entire length of the stretch. Once he hit the lead, LOOKIN AT LUCKY pricked his ears and started to pull himself up. After all, that was about the distance he’d run when he won the Del Mar Futurity. He’d passed his competition and saw nothing but empty track ahead…LUCKY thought the race was over.
The HRTV isolation picked up the detail beautifully. GOMEZ spanked the colt a few times and reminded him of his unfinished businesses with his signature, emphatic crosses. LOOKIN AT LUCKY twitched his left ear back as if to say “Oh, do you want me to care about that plucky little colt on the rail that I’d already passed? I’m sorry, I thought he was done. I hear TREVOR DENMAN saying he’s trying hard to come back so I’ll turn on the afterburners and put him farther in the rear view mirror, okay?”
LUCKY proceeded to pin both ears back, stuck his neck out and lengthened his stride while widening to a comfortable lead in a matter of 100 yards. I had to laugh out loud at what I’d just seen on the replay which stirred interest from my children, who at this point in their lives put up with my love of the sport more than they share the passion. I replayed what I’d seen three times, pointing out how professional LOOKIN AT LUCKY was through the running of the first 7 furlongs of the race. Then I showed them how “green” the colt still was despite apparently having learned his lessons. I paralleled their young lives and experiences to LOOKIN AT LUCKY’s Norfolk run. Sports, human or equine, have always been terrific teachers in my lifetime and I use them whenever I can to guide my children’s development.
LUCKY, not unlike the developing human child, will need to learn how to compete at the top of this game through failure. He’s that talented grade school athlete who runs over and around his less proficient classmates. You remember the kind, built like an athlete already with muscles showing where the other boys still have baby fat. There may even be a bit of facial hair to intimidate his competition a little more. He’s a nice kid, not demoralizing his competition because he just doesn’t know he’s that much better than his friends.
Then, it happens…some of the others develop out of that awkward stage and begin to challenge the status quo. A terrific equine example is the 2007 3y.o. crop. STREET SENSE was the upset, daylight winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Champion 2y.o. of 2006, and became the first horse to break the BC Juvenile/Kentucky Derby jinx. He left a troubled CURLIN, who entered the Derby undefeated and untested, in his wake.
But CURLIN learned from his Derby run to snatch victory from the hands of defeat. Two weeks later, STREET SENSE was on the verge of competing for the elusive Triple Crown when he stormed past CURLIN in upper stretch to open up by more than a length. Then the competitive light bulb clicked in and CURLIN surged back on the outside to win the Preakness by a nose.
So, who will be LOOKIN AT LUCKY’s foil? Will he become the next SILVER CHARM, a true competitor who will beat most top class horses if given the ability to eyeball them home. At this stage, it appears that we’ll have to wait until the Triple Crown trail to find out who will emerge from this crop as the legitimate challenger. Will it be DUBLIN? How about BACKTALK? Can HOT DIXIE CHICK become 2010’s RACHEL ALEXANDRA?
The only relative certainty will be that LOOKIN AT LUCKY is the most likely Breeders’ Cup race winner. If he succeeds as expected, he will become the 2009 Eclipse Award winner for Juveniles and becomes the early Kentucky Derby favorite.
Is there yet another? At this point it appears that LOOKIN AT LUCKY is THE ONLY ONE!