Namesake on the line, Lookin At Lucky is 1st over the wire

No. 7 post position at Preakness probably helped bay colt win

  • Bob Baffert lifts the Woodlawn Vase in the winner's circle after Lookin At Lucky won the Preakness from the No. 7 post position. Lookin At Lucky, trained by Baffert and ridden by Martin Garcia, second from left, drew the rail for the Kentucky Derby and struggled.
Bob Baffert lifts the Woodlawn Vase in the winner's circle… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth…)
May 16, 2010|By Peter Schmuck

Lookin At Lucky had another tough trip Saturday, but this time the star-crossed Kentucky Derby favorite waited until after he crossed the wire to win the 135th Preakness Stakes before struggling to get into the winner's circle.

Moments after jockey Martin Garcia brought the bay colt home in the second jewel of horse racing's Triple Crown series, Lookin At Lucky and his expanded entourage found themselves face to face with a racetrack security contingent that — at least momentarily — wasn't willing to let everyone pass.

There were some sharp words exchanged, but nothing was going to spoil this party.

"I think we have a reputation of breaking the rules sometimes with winner's circle pictures," co-owner Mike Pegram said. "When you're excited, your friends travel this far, see your horse run, you want to make sure they share it with you."

It wasn't a big deal, but it was somewhat symbolic of the rough road that Lookin At Lucky and his connections traveled to his greatest victory. This was the horse who was supposed to have the inside track to the first Triple Crown since 1978, but that dream was shattered before it ever reached the track at Churchill Downs.

The dream ended, according to trainer Bob Baffert, when Lookin At Lucky was literally handed the inside track — the No. 1 post position — for the Derby.

"I thought this was a really good horse to win the Kentucky Derby with,'' Baffert said. "When he drew the one hole, I just felt an emptiness. I wanted to scratch the horse. I was sick about it because I knew he's down there. So I felt, like, beat. I really couldn't get into the Derby."

The horse couldn't either. Jockey Garrett Gomez could not keep Lookin At Lucky out of trouble and probably did a good job just to bring him home in sixth place. This time, Garcia — who hasn't exactly had an easy trip to his newfound place in Preakness history — had a relatively trouble-free trip out of the No. 7 gate, charging into the lead at the final turn and holding off long-shot First Dude down the stretch.

Finally, the horse was true to his name, which Pegram tried to explain during the post-race news conference.

"We'll make it real simple," Pegram said. "You see these five people [Garcia, Baffert, Pegram and co-owners Carl Watson and Paul Weitmann] sitting up here … you're looking at lucky. You can pick any one of us, and all five of us are luckier now to have each other and have a horse like this. That was the true meaning of the name."

When did their luck change? Was it the decision by Baffert to pull Gomez off the horse and turn it over to the relatively inexperienced Garcia, whose first job when he came to the United States seven years ago was working in a San Francisco-area delicatessen? Or was it when Baffert drew one of the prime post positions Wednesday afternoon?

The seven hole was, if nothing else, a big relief for Baffert. His wife, Jill, said after the race that if Lookin At Lucky had drawn the rail again for the Preakness, the horse would have been scratched and put on a plane back to California.

Instead, Lookin At Lucky got one of the prime slots side by side with Super Saver, and Garcia was put in solid position to take advantage of the chance of a lifetime. Baffert took a big chance by removing a veteran jockey for a relative unknown, but the outcome was something right out of Hollywood.

"We're going to make a movie — 'The Blind Side 2,'" he said. "He's going to move in with me."

Now, all that's left is for Baffert and the owners to decide whether to take Lookin At Lucky to the Belmont Stakes. There is no Triple Crown hanging in the balance, but there is an opportunity to confirm that the horse really is this year's best 3-year-old.

If nothing else, Lookin At Lucky proved Saturday that he can get to the winner's circle no matter what stands in his way.

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) on Fridays and Saturdays at noon and with Brett Hollander on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6. Also, check out his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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