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Lookin At Lucky - Best Pal Stakes - August 09

Lookin At Lucky: the son of Smart Strike is champion US juvenile elect

  PICTURE: Nicholas Godfrey  

Lookin At Lucky: joins  the millionaires' club

Lookin At Lucky
2 b c Smart Strike - Private Feeling (Belong To Me)

THE Eclipse Award for champion two-year-old in North America generally goes to the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and, more often than not, with good reason. The race tends to bring together the best of the generation and serves well as a championship decider.

But as this year's winner was the Godolphin raider Vale Of York, making his only start in the States, it was to be expected that the voters would look elsewhere, and it was natural for them to focus on the claims of Lookin At Lucky, who appeared to be the pick of the home-trained youngsters and had been unbeaten until failing by a head to catch the English-based colt at Santa Anita.


But there is nothing like making assurance doubly sure, so the Smart Strike colt was sent out to confirm his status at the top of the pile in the CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park, and after his second smooth Grade 1 success there,it seems inconceivable that he will be denied the title.

Lookin At Lucky, a $475,000 purchase at Keeneland’s two-year-old sale last April, had his first start in a 6f Hollywood maiden on July 11, scoring comfortably by three-quarters of a length. Four weeks later he was pitched into Grade 2 company for the 6½f Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar, and victory there by the same margin confirmed his promise.

In the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity, over 7f in early September, he was required to give 6lb to Make Music For Me, his runner-up in the Best Pal, and when he accomplished that task readily by a length, he was most people's idea of the best two-year-old in California, and an easy win, by nearly two lengths,in Santa Anita's Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes – his first venture at 1m – left nobody in doubt.

But when he drew the number 13 stall, on the far outside of a
higher-class field for the Breeders’ CupJuvenile, there had to be doubts that he would prove himself the best in the nation. Predictably, he had a troubled trip, coming from far back, having to race wide and collecting two or three bumps en route, but he turned in a valiant effort and was declared the moral winner by many observers.

In the CashCall Futurity he was drawn on the inside, and trainer Bob Baffert, seeking a record fifth victory in the race, told rider Garrett Gomez to keep him close to the pace. The instruction was easy to obey, because Lookin At Lucky travelled smoothly throughout, and up front his barn companion The Program left the rail position vacant to allow an unimpeded challenge.

As expected, the 1-5 favourite slipped through to take command on the turn for home, swiftly opened a clear advantage, and was not hard pressed to keep the late-charging Noble's Promise – himself a previous Grade 1 winner, and third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile – at bay by three-quarters of a length. Old rival Make Music For Me was a half-length further back.

Lookin At Lucky may have just missed out on a seven-figure prize when runner-up at the Breeders’ Cup, but his Hollywood triumph gained him admission to the millionaires' club, his earnings now amounting to $1,243,000; it has been quite a first season for one foaled as late as May 27.

He does not blow his rivals away, and only one of his five victories hascome by clear daylight, but he travels well through his races and can produce an impressive change of gear. Of course, having raced exclusively in California, he has competed only on synthetic surfaces, but he will have at least one start on a traditional dirt track before heading for the Kentucky Derby.

As well as ensuring a championship for himself, Lookin At Lucky secured a third consecutive North American sires' title for Smart Strike, who has been battling for the honour with hisLane's End Stud companion A.P. Indy, also twice a  champion.

Unlike A.P. Indy, who was a top-priced yearling and Horse of the Year, Smart Strike started his innings at stud with little fanfare and no great expectations. He did win six of only eight races, and one of those victories came at Grade 1 level, but he had always seemed fragile and never gave a passable impression of a top-class athlete.

Unraced until the autumn of his three-year-old season, SmartStrike finished second on his Keeneland debut, won a maiden there, then scored in two allowance events at Woodbine. Then came a long hiatus, and he was not seen out again until the following July, when he won an optional claimer at the same track.

Back in the States he won the Grade 3 Salvator Mile at Monmouth, making all the running, then raised his game for a Grade 1 score there in the Philip H. Iselin Handicap, in which the formerly Henry Cecil-trained Eltish was runner-up.

He seemed to be on the upgrade, and there was even talk of a bid for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but he was trounced by champion Cigar in the Woodward, and shortly afterwards a condylar fracture to his near-fore brought a premature end to his career.

If he was not a top-class runner, Smart Strike was a son of
Mr Prospector, and he was a half-brother to a champion filly in Dance Smartly; his pedigree credentials gave him a shot to make a name at stud, and he duly delivered, though it was some time before he became properly appreciated. The grass champion English Channel, from his fifth crop, brought him recognition; dual Horse of the Year Curlin put his name in lights.

He even has a rising profile in Europe now, with Group 3 winners in Denomination and Zanzibari, plus the Prix Marcel Boussac runner-up On Verra, to the fore in 2009, while back home his increasing reputation as a broodmare sire has been underlined by the exploits of Kentucky Derby hero Mine That Bird.

Lookin At Lucky’s dam Private Feeling won only two minor races, but she is certainly making her mark as a broodmare. He is her second Graded winner from as many runners, her three-year-old MrGreeley colt Kensei having notched a Grade 2 double this term in the Dwyer and Jim Dandy Stakes.

In addition, Lookin At Lucky is the second champion to descend from his granddam Regal Feeling; she also features as third dam of Wait A While, a filly effective on dirt and turf who reigned as best of her sex as a three-year-old in 2006. This family, responsible for an Irish Derby hero in Sir Harry Lewis more than 20 years ago, is clearly on the rise again.

Bred by Gulf Coast Farms LLC in Kentucky. Unsold $35,000 as Keeneland September yearling


PEDIGREE ASSESSMENT

Sire: SMART STRIKE

Bred by Sam-Son Farm in Canada. Won 6 (7-8.5f) of 8 races, viz. unraced at 2 years, won 3 out of 4 at 3 years, 3
(inc. Salvator Mile H.-Gr3, Philip H. Iselin H.-Gr1) out of 4 at 4 years. RPR: 121 at 4 years. Earned $337,376.

Dam: PRIVATE FEELING

Bred by W.S. Farish & W. Temple Webber jnr in Kentucky. Won 2 of 7 races, viz. unraced at 2 years, 2 out of 5 at 3 years,
0 out of 2 at 4 years. Earned $18,245.

Quite well bred. By a smart performer who compiled a good record at stud. Sister to a stakes-placed winner,
half-sister to 7 other winners, inc. Grand Charmer (by Lord Avie; Gr3; granddam of champion 3-y-o filly Wait a While. Dam stakes-placed winner, half-sister to 7 other winners, inc. 2 stakes-placed. Granddam Gr1 winner, half-sister to stakes-winners Northern Prospect and Sue Babe (dam of Irish Derby winner Sir Harry Lewis).

To stud at 4 years and dam of: Feeling Grand (2005 c by Grand Slam; unraced), Kensei (2006 c by Mr Greeley; dual Gr2 winner), Lookin At Lucky (2007 c by Smart Strike; dual Gr1 winner). Slipped in 2004.

She has a colt-foal by Afleet Alex, and was sold for $2 million, in foal to Mr Greeley, at 2009 Fasig-Tipton November sale.

CONCLUSION

Raced only on synthetic surfaces, but should adapt easily to dirt, and promises to stay 1m2f with the Kentucky Derby as the target. A certainty for the Eclipse Award as champion two-year-old.

 

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