BAFFERT FEELING "LUCKY"
The Breeders' Cup extravaganza gets underway today and what better way to start than with a winner, a sure thing, right from the trainer's mouth.
Well, we've got the horse right here with a name to match: Lookin At Lucky, the likely morning-line favorite in the $2 million Juvenile on Saturday.
He is one of four horses entered in the Cup by the trainer with the hottest hand going in. That's Bob Baffert, who won two Cup races last year and could win two or more this week.
In addition to Lookin at Lucky, Baffert will saddle a contender in the Juvenile Fillies Friday in Always a Princess, probably the Sprint favorite in Zensational on Saturday and a nice longshot Richard's Kid in the Classic.
But at Clockers' Corner, the gathering place for everyone in the mornings at Santa Anita racetrack, Baffert yesterday left no doubt where his confidence lies.
"Lookin At Lucky is my best chance," he said. "From day one, we have thought the world of this colt. He just keeps on winning. He's easy to train, he gets better every day. He gets it done."
He sure does. Lucky has never been beaten, winning all four of his races, all on synthetic tracks. He's the only horse in the Juvenile with two Grade 1 wins.
Lucky matches all Baffert's criteria for a winner. He likes to work his horses fast, which is why they call him Bullet Bob. Lucky has had two bullet works since winning the Norfolk Stakes last month.
When Baffert is really serious he goes after one jockey -- Garrett Gomez. "He's my go-to man," Baffert likes to say. Gomez will ride Lookin At Lucky.
Finally, at this time last year Baffert touted the world on his sprint candidate, Midnight Lute, who promptly delivered at 5-2. This year, Lookin At Lucky is his horse du jour.
Gomez will also ride Always A Princess, a 4-1 shot in the filly version. The Princess won first out in a maiden at Del Mar, then led all the way to deep stretch in the Grade 1 Oak Leaf, before being run down by Blind Luck.
"Always a Princess has a lot of talent," Baffert said. "In her first race, she got clipped up and was far back early, but all of a sudden she settled and ran down another of my good fillies. In the Oak Leaf, we put her on the lead to get a good race into her. That will really move her up. She's got a good chance."
Zensational probably will be the Sprint favorite with Victor Espinoza up. The three-year-old won three straight Grade 1 sprints on Del Mar's synthetic track in the summer. Since then, he has blazed three bullet works at Santa Anita.
"He's a fast, magnificent horse," said Baffert. "He has not been running against top caliber horses, but we've never set him down yet. We've never had to. We'll turn him loose here. He's an amazing, incredible horse."
Baffert still is in shock over Richard's Kid's upset win in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar at 24-1. "I never thought I'd win a million-dollar race with a $50 mutuel horse," he joked.
"He likes the synthetics, he can go a mile and a quarter and he'll be coming at the end."
Baffert is so jazzed about his prospects that he confessed, "I'm on pins and needles every day. All my horses are doing great. I'm excited, the owners are excited.
"If everything falls into place, I could win one, two, three or even four. But I always think back to 1999 when I went to Gulfstream."
Who will ever forget? Baffert ran eight horses, the world thought he would win at least four races -- and he ended up winning nothing.
"That was a long day," Baffert sighed. He's just hoping history doesn't repeat itself here, especially in the year he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
by Ray Kerrison
Get more articles by Jim Hurley here...