For now until the Kentucky Derby in less than two weeks, I'm going to provide daily profiles of each contender for this year's Derby. I'll be going in order of graded earnings from highest to lowest.
Lookin At Lucky
Sire: Smart Strike
Dam: Private Feeling (Belong to Me)
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: Garrett Gomez
Career Record: 8-6-1-1
Running Style: Mid-pack / Presser
Looking At Lucky has displayed a versatile running style as both a juvenile and a three year old. He pressed the pace in the Cash Call Futurity, he closed from well back in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and he ran on from mid-pack in the Rebel. This colt's ability to run well from a variety of positions on the track is one of his greatest attributes.
Graded Earnings (rank): $1,480,000 (#1)
How he got to the Derby: Lookin At Lucky had a spot in the Kentucky Derby completely sewn up after a juvenile campaign that saw him win $1.2 million. Lucky won the Grade 2 Best Pal, the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity, and the Grade 1 Norfolk before finishing second to Vale of York (IRE) after a highly troubled trip in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
As a three year old, Lookin At Lucky has made just two starts: the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. The Rebel Stakes was Lucky's first attempt at running on a conventional dirt surface, a test that he passed with flying colors as he edged out rival Noble's Promised by a head at the wire. His final prep of the spring was another adventurous trip as Lucky was severely cut off in the late stages of the Santa Anita Derby, yet still managed to get up to grab third.
What has to happen for him to win: Lucky is the most accomplished horse in the field - he's performed well as a juvenile, he won multiple Grade 1 races, and he's been through a ton of rough and tough trips. The most important thing for this colt is to get a good, clean trip. If he's able to do that, I don't think anyone in this field will beat him, including Eskendereya. The problem is that getting a clean trip in the Derby is not easy, especially for a horse that will probably be making his run from the middle of the pack.
I've got Lookin At Lucky as the favorite on my odds line, just a sliver ahead of Eskendereya. Assuming he trains well up to Derby day, I'll take a win bet on him at odds of 7/2 or higher.
Key Race: Grade 2 Rebel Stakes (1st)
A replay of Lookin At Lucky's win in the Rebel from the NTRA's YouTube site can be found below the jump.
The most important race of Lookin At Lucky's career with respect to his chances in the Derby, is clearly the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn on March 13th. The race marked Lucky's first attempt at running on a dirt surface after a career of synthetic races in California.
After getting squeezed a bit and steadying a bit at that start, Lucky settled into a nice mid-pack run down the backstretch until starting to make a move just prior to entering the far turn. When you watch the replay you'll see Lucky makes a jumping motion at the :59 second mark (it's right as he starts to come into view on the bottom of the split screen and just after they go by a tree on the infield). I don't have a head-on replay to compare, but the trip note on the chart notes that Lucky jumped across the heels of Noble's Promise when that one came out at the 1/2 mile pole.
Once he was able to regain his gallop, Lucky moves wide off the far turn and wears down Dublin and Noble's Promise in the stretch, getting up to win by just a head.
To see a horse take up, lose momentum, and then still be full of run in the stretch is extremely impressive. And without the trouble, it's a good be that Lucky would have won by more.