SOUTH / CHAMPION LOOKIN AT LUCKY RETURNS, TRIES DIRT IN REBEL – Lookin At Lucky, the champion 2-year-old of 2009, will kick of what trainer Bob Baffert hopes will be a campaign that leads to a victory on May 1 in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) in Saturday’s $300,000 Rebel Stakes (GIII) at Oaklawn Park.
A return to competition fewer than 50 days out from the “Run for the Roses” would merit plenty of attention in any case, but the 1 1/16-mile race will also mark the Smart Strike colt’s debut on traditional dirt, the type of racing surface he’ll have to handle in the big race at Churchill Downs. The champ has won five of six lifetime starts, with his only setback being a narrow defeat by Dubai-based Vale of York in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita. He followed that loss with a victory in the CashCall Futurity (GI) over Hollywood Park’s synthetic Cushion Track.
Regular jockey Garrett Gomez will fly into the Hot Springs, Ark. track for the ride.
“He’s going to run well,” said Baffert, a three-time winner of the Kentucky Derby. “He’s doing great and he’s a good horse.”
Lookin at Lucky is co-owned by Mike Pegram, who teamed with Baffert to win the 1998 Kentucky Derby with Real Quiet.
Five opponents have been entered to face Lookin At Lucky and the most dangerous of that formidable group appear to be the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Dublin, runner-up in the recent Southwest (GIII) at Oaklawn, and Noble’s Promise, the runner-up in the CashCall Futurity who makes his first appearance of the year for trainer Ken McPeek.
Dublin finished second to the Baffert-trained Conveyance in the one-mile Southwest, his first race since he underwent throat surgery following a pair of poor runs that ended his 2-year-old season. Corey Nakatani will ride Dublin.
Noble’s Promise, who finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, also makes his debut on dirt. He had raced on either synthetic or turf courses in his five previous starts.
Others in the Rebel are Cardiff Giant, Royal Express, Uh Oh Bango and Pleasant Storm.
WEST / UNBEATEN CARACORTADO BIDS TO EXTEND STRING IN SAN FELIPE – Saturday’s $150,000 San Felipe (GII) at Santa Anita once loomed as the scene of a showdown between the California-bred newcomer Caracortado and the reigning 2-year-old champion Lookin At Lucky. But Bob Baffert, who trains the latter, decided to take his colt to Arkansas for his 2010 debut. So the Mike Machowsky-trained Caracortado, who stepped out of races reserved for California-breds to whip open competition in the Robert B. Lewis (GII) in February, will likely be favored in a field of seven in the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe. Regular jockey Paul Atkinson will ride.
Caracortado’s strongest opposition could come from a pair of Kentucky Derby hopefuls trained by John Sadler: stretch-runner and Lewis runner-up Dave in Dixie and front-running San Vicente (GIII) winner Sidney’s Candy.
“I don’t like running two together, but it’s the best race for both horses,” Sadler told Daily Racing Form. “They complement each other: one in front, one coming from last. It’ll be tough for the others. If you run with Sidney’s Candy, you pay the price. Hopefully, those two will meet up at the sixteenth pole.”
Other possible contenders could include Interactif, a grass specialist who ships from Florida for trainer Todd Pletcher to try the synthetic surface at Santa Anita, and American Lion, the Eoin Harty-trained winner of the Hollywood Prevue who finished third in the Lewis.
FLORIDA / SUPER SAVER RETURNS, MEETS ODYSSEUS IN TAMPA BAY DERBY – The $300,000-added Tampa Bay Derby (GIII), an increasing important stop on the road to the Kentucky Derby, will be renewed Saturday with a major contender for America’s greatest race in the starting gate alongside another colt who could emerge from the race as a prime time player.
The known commodity is WinStar Farm’s Super Saver, who was last seen rolling to an easy five-length win in the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) at Churchill Downs in late November. The Todd Pletcher-trained son of Maria’s Mon will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez, who is subbing for jockey Calvin Borel, who will be busy Saturday afternoon riding reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra in her season debut at Fair Grounds in the New Orleans Ladies.
Super Saver is near the top of a long list of Kentucky Derby hopefuls trained by Todd Pletcher, who is seeking his first victory in the Kentucky Derby.
The biggest obstacle for Super Saver could be Odysseus, a Tom Albertrani-trained colt who is coming off a 15-length victory in a Tampa Bay Downs allowance race on Feb. 17.
Super Saver and Odysseus will break from posts six and seven, respectively.
Other contenders include Schoolyard Dreams and Uptowncharlybrown, the 2-3 finishers behind WinStar’s Rule in the Sam F. Davis (GIII) at Tampa Bay.
Street Sense won the Tampa Bay Derby on his way to a Kentucky Derby victory in 2008, while 2009 winner Musket Man ran third to Mine That Bird in the big race at Churchill Downs.
DERBY 136 NOTES – Two-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel is set for a memorable weekend. Borel, who piloted Street Sense (2007) and Mine That Bird (2009) to win the “Run for the Roses,” rides reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra on Saturday in the her 2010 debut in the New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds, then travels to California on Sunday to accept the 2010 George Woolf Award. He was the choice of his peers to become the 61st winner of the award that honors riders who bring honor to racing through their conduct on and off the track … Trainer Alexis Barba said Pasadena Stakes winner Make Music For Me would make his next start in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (GI) on April 3. She is still mulling options for Sham (GIII) winner Alphie’s Bet. … Trainer Cam Gambolati said Ol Memorial Stable and C.E. Glasscock’s Soaring Empire will make his next start in the $750,000 Florida Derby (GI) at Gulfstream Park on March 20. Gambolati won the 1985 Kentucky Derby with Spend A Buck.