SOUTH / CHAMPION LOOKIN AT LUCKY HANDLES DIRT, NARROWLY WINS REBEL – Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman’s Lookin At Lucky, the champion 2-year-old of 2009, proved a couple of thing’s in his 2010 debut in Saturday’s $300,000 Rebel Stakes (Grade III) at Oaklawn Park.

For one, the Bob Baffert-trained colt that ranks on the short list of favorites for the 136th running of the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby (GI) can handle a traditional dirt track, the type of surface he’ll need to deal with in the May 1 American racing classic at Churchill Downs.  Secondly, Lookin At Lucky does not back down from a fight.

The 3-year-old son of Smart Strike charged from off the pace under jockey Garrett Gomez to catch Chasing Dreams Stable’s Noble’s Promise in the final strides to win the 1 1/16-mile test by a head before 36,298 fans at the Hot Springs, Ark. track.  Baker and Mack’s Dublin, the D. Wayne Lukas-trained runner-up in Oaklawn’s Southwest (GIII) finished third.

Lookin At Lucky, who also was equipped with blinkers for the first time, covered the distance over a fast track in 1:43.  The race was also the first on dirt for the Ken McPeek-trained Noble’s Promise, who had finished second to Lookin At Lucky in the previous race for both in the CashCall Futurity (GI) in December at Hollywood Park.

“He’s a horse that can overcome,” said Baffert, who has won the Kentucky Derby three times.  “He’s a great athlete and a great horse, which is half the battle.”

The race marked the third time in as many meetings that Lookin At Lucky had finished in front of Noble’s Promise.  Their first face-off came in November’s Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI), in which they finished 2-3 behind Godolphin’s upset winner Vale of York – the only loss in seven races for Lookin At Lucky.

"That other horse just has our number,” McPeek said.

Lookin At Lucky is scheduled to race one more time before the Kentucky Derby, but was non-committal about a return to Oaklawn for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (GI) on April 10.  Noble’s Promise will remain at the Arkansas track.

WEST / SIDNEY’S CANDY IS SWEET IN SAN FELIPE WIN – Sidney’s Candy, owned by weight-loss guru Jenny Craig and named in honor of her late husband, jumped to the lead when the starting gates sprung open and maintained his position in a front-running win in Saturday’s $150,000 San Felipe (GII) at Santa Anita.

Jockey Joe Talamo was aboard the homebred son of Candy Ride as he held-off the late charge of Interactif to win by a half-length.  Previously unbeaten and favored Caracortado, winner of the Robert B. Lewis (GII) in February, rallied to finish a non-threatening third.

Talamo guided Sidney’s Candy through comfortable early fractions of :24.29 for the first quarter, :48.55 for the half-mile and 1:13.53 for six furlongs, and extended a one-length lead to a 2 ½-length advantage at the head of the stretch that turned out to be insurmountable.  He covered the 1 1/16-mile distance over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface in 1:42.30.

Sidney’s Candy colt had won the seven-furlong San Vicente (GIII) in his 2010 debut and is now perfect in two races this year for trainer John Sadler.  His next objective is expected to be the Santa Anita Derby (GI) at 1 1/8 miles on April 3.

“The plan was to get the lead, relax and kick when they came to him,” said Talamo, who was the regular rider I Want Revenge, the 2009 Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched on the morning of the race because of injury.  “For him to go from a seven-eighths sprint to a mile and a sixteenth and relax like that is amazing.”

FLORIDA / ODYSSEUS TAKES TAMPA BAY DERBY IN PHOTO; BUDDY’S SAINT OFF DERBY TRAIL AFTER INJURY – Padua Stable’s Odysseus has displayed considerable talent in a trio of races in the early weeks of his 3-year-old season, but it could be argued that he has a magician’s touch after performing the equine equivalent of “pulling a rabbit out of the hat” when he prevailed as the surprise winner of a frantic photo finish in the $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby (GIII).

The son of Malibu Moon, ridden by Rajiv Maragh hit the finish line with Eric Fein’s Schoolyard Dreams in a heart-pounding finish to the 1 1/16-mile race, but to most observers – including Maragh, trainer Tom Albertrani and Padua owner Satish Sanan – it appeared that Schoolyard Dreams had given Fein his third consecutive victory Tampa Bay Derby victory.

But the posting of the official order-of-finish showed Odysseus had won by the slimmest of noses over Schoolyard Dreams, while favored Super Saver, the winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) at Churchill Downs, was third for trainer Todd Pletcher in his 2010 debut.

“I really believed we might have just come short by a (head) bob,” said Albertrani.  “I thought he needed another jump, but that’s the way it worked out.”

Before the race, Albertrani had planned to ship Odysseus to Aqueduct for the Wood Memorial (GI) on April 3, but the colt picked up $180,000 in graded stakes earnings in Saturday’s win.  That total that could be enough to earn a spot in a Kentucky Derby field limited to 20 horses – with preference given to horses with the highest graded stakes earnings totals.

So Albertrani could elect to train Odysseus up to the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby on May 1.

"We’ll see how he trains the next two weeks and make some decisions,” he said.  “We’ll see if we need to run him back or just sit and wait.”

BUDDY’S SAINT INJURED, OUT OF KENTUCKY DERBY 136 – One of the most discussed contenders for the 2010 Kentucky Derby veered off the road to Churchill Downs on Sunday when Remsen (GII) winner Buddy’s Saint was discovered to have suffered a chip in his ankle.

Trainer Bruce Levine noticed the colt was in discomfort following a five-furlong workout on Sunday morning at Gulfstream Park. He said the injury would require surgery.

“From what I see, I think he’ll make a full recovery,” Levine told Thoroughbred Times.  “I don’t think we saw his best yet.”