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Mar 12, 2010

Two-Year-Old Champ Returns to the Races

By: by Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor, sports network

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In what could be the sign of the times, Lookin At Lucky, last year's Eclipse Award-winning two-year-old, will have just two prep races prior to the Kentucky Derby. If the Bob Baffert-trained colt winds up crossing the wire first at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, he'll become the fourth straight Kentucky Derby winner with only two previous starts in his three-year-old campaign.

Lookin At Lucky's 2010 journey begins this Saturday in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park as the three time Grade 1 winner hasn't raced since a three- quarter length win over Noble's Promise in the Cash Call Futurity at Santa Anita last December. The son of Smart Strike sports five wins in six career starts, with the lone defeat coming by only a head in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, a race he began from post 13.

Will he be able to make his return to the track a winning one? If the answer is yes, then he will certainly quiet the critics that say he's just a synthetic specialist that doesn't overpower his rivals with convincing authority. Don't forget, we witnessed a significant number of horses make the transition from Pro-Ride to dirt just one year ago, including I Want Revenge, who rolled in the Gotham Stakes, and Papa Clem, who took care of business in the Arkansas Derby.

Still, both those colts were not making their first start of the year in those races and they weren't also in need of a change in equipment - two strikes against Lookin At Lucky in the Rebel. Not only will this be his initial 2010 challenge, but he'll be wearing blinkers for the first time in his career. In addition, the half-brother to Kensei hasn't been tearing up the track in his morning workouts as other Bob Baffert-trained horses usually do.

The jury is still out on just how good Lookin At Lucky really is so it's best to stay away from him on Saturday.

Another Kentucky Derby contender that also begins his three-year-old season in the Rebel is one of Lookin At Lucky's old rivals.

Noble's Promise, who finished within a length of the two-year-old champ in both the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the Cash Call Futurity, has been working much more efficiently of late with a pair of "second fastest of the day" five- furlong works at Gulfstream Park. Moreover, he's already won off a 5 1/2-month layoff in his two-year-old campaign so there's a decent chance he can turn the tables on Lookin At Lucky this Saturday. However, like his nemesis, he'll be racing over conventional dirt for the first time.

One more horse making his 2010 debut in the Rebel is Uh Oh Bango. With two wins and three seconds in five lifetime starts, the underrated gelding, who finished just a neck behind Rule in the Delta Jackpot Stakes last December, is the possible upsetter in the field.

Sired by Top Hit, Uh Oh Bango gets his speed from his dam side but endurance from the sire line. Top Hit's mother is a half-sister to millionaire Vanlandingham (who won this race in 1984) while his granddam is a half-sister to 1980 Belmont Stakes winner Temperence Hill.

Even with the likes of Lookin At Lucky, Noble's Promise and Uh Oh Bango in the race, the smart money should go towards another horse by the name of Dublin.

The son of Afleet Alex was just as impressive in losing the Southwest Stakes on February 20 as Eskendereya was in winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes the same afternoon. It was Dublin's first start since November 1st and his initial race after undergoing throat surgery over the winter.

He must have forgotten how to break from the gate along the way as the D. Wayne Lukas-trained colt got off a step slow and then stumbled three strides later. Approaching the backstretch, the 7-2 third choice found himself a good 12 lengths behind the speedy Conveyance. Dublin then zipped his middle half-mile in a blistering 46 4/5 seconds to close within six lengths around the final turn before losing by less than a length.

Jockey Corey Nakatani will now become his sixth rider in seven starts, and most likely, the second one besides Jamie Theriot to pilot him into the winner's circle.

Selections: 1) Dublin; 2) Noble's Promise; 3) Uh Oh Bango


Another top two-year-old from last year returns to the track on Saturday as Super Saver tackles six other colts in the Tampa Bay Derby. As is the case with Lookin At Lucky, the odds might not be in his favor to pull out the victory, especially since the bay colt has yet to ever defeat a top-notch horse. The best colt he's ever knocked off is William's Kitten, the third-place finisher in the Holy Bull Stakes.

Still, he's widely considered one of the top three-year-olds due to his smashing five-length score in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs last November. He might not show his top form off the layoff this Saturday but if he runs back to his lone stakes victory in his final tune up for the Derby, he will definitely be one to watch on May 1st.

The horse everyone's been buzzing about down at Tampa Bay the last few weeks has been Odysseus, who wowed the local crowd with a smashing 15-length victory in an optional claiming allowance race on February 17.

Granted he didn't beat much that day as three of the other five horses in the race were eligible to be claimed, but he did improve his Beyer figure from an 85 (in his maiden victory) to 91. He poses a serious threat to the speedy Super Saver due to his ability to stalk the pace. Plus, he has a race over the Tampa Bay Downs track, which could be a quirky surface to newcomers.

The Sam F. Davis Stakes, the local prep for the Tampa Bay Derby, took place on February 13 and the second (Schoolyard Dreams) and third (Uptowncharlybrown) finishers from that race will take a crack at upsetting the probable top two favorites.

Uptowncharlybrown, who began his career winning his first two starts by a combined 15 lengths, literally walked out of the gate in the Sam F. Davis, spotting the early leaders three full lengths as the field raced by the stands the first time.

The big gangly colt had more trouble keeping up with the field down the backstretch, settling in last place, about six lengths off the pace. He finally kicked it into gear through the stretch missing second by a diminishing length.

A sharper effort is expected on Saturday, particularly after a 35 4/5 three- furlong work from the gate last week and the addition of blinkers. Look for him to be closer to the pace on Saturday, which could give the son of Limehouse an extra boost of confidence heading into the homestretch.

Schoolyard Dreams comes into the race with a pair of bullet workouts over the track. The son of Stephen Got Even should also get a slight jump on both Super Saver and Odysseus as he breaks inside the duo from post four. Still, it will be a tough task holding onto the lead.

Selections: 1) Uptowncharlybrown; 2) Super Saver; 3) Odysseus


Caracortado, the California gelding with five consecutive victories, faces a pair of horses he beat in the Robert B. Lewis, along with four newcomers in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita.

It's hard to find holes in Caracortado's armor considering he has yet to lose, but he did fall into a perfect trip in the Robert B. Lewis, sitting behind fast early fractions that cooked both American Lion and Tiz Chrome.

Fortunately for his connections, that scenario could easily take place once again with Sidney's Candy taking over Tiz Chrome's role in a possible speed duel with American Lion.

Speaking of Sidney's Candy, he's likely to be the second choice in the wagering after annihilating the field in the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs. He's by far the fastest horse in the race but this will also be his first try going a distance of ground. If the chestnut colt can ration his speed in this 1 1/16-mile event, he could take the field gate to wire.

The John Sadler-trainee is bred to go long as his sire Candy Ride won the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic and his dam Fair Exchange is the only foal out of Exchange, a multiple Grade 1 winner. Furthermore, Exchange's dam, Wooly Willow, is a half-sister to the 1979 Queen's Plate winner, Steady Growth. Still, it's hard to wire a field around two-turns on Pro-Ride and American Lion won't make things easy for Sidney's Candy on the front end.

Dave in Dixie, the third-place finisher in the Robert B. Lewis has the come- from-behind style to win the San Felipe. However, he might not be good enough to take the top prize.

Interactif, trained by Todd Pletcher, is the wild card in the race. He has done most of his racing on the turf winning a pair of Grade 3 stakes events before running third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. He opened his three-year-old season by finishing second to Bim Bam in the Hallandale Beach Stakes at 1 1/16- miles.

Pletcher was mildly successful last year when his Take the Points finished second behind The Pamplemousse in that colt's first venture on Pro-Ride in the Sham. Can he do it again with Interactif?

Selections: 1) Caracortado; 2) Dave in Dixie; 3) Sidney's Candy


Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta both make their 2010 debuts on Saturday in preparation for next month's colossal showdown at Oaklawn Park, but there are a couple of first-time starters on the Fair Grounds and Santa Anita cards that bear watching.

Trackman, who runs in the seventh race at the Louisiana track, is a three-year- old son of Empire Maker out of Stormy Bear, who's a half-sister to champion turf horse Chief Bearhart. He'll be making his debut at about 1 1/16-miles on the grass and is 6-1 on the morning line.

Race three at Santa Anita for maidens at 6 1/2-furlongs sports Danzing Tribal, a four-year-old gelding by Tribal Rule, whose dam, Danzing Crown, is a half- sister to Chocolate Candy. In addition, Danzing Crown's second dam is a half- sister to the last Triple Crown winner, Affirmed.

Also at Santa Anita, go with an Elegant-Holy Flapper exacta box in race four.

Down in Florida at Gulfstream Park, take the three horse "Hit It Rich" in race 11.

Finally on Sunday, first-time starter Sistine is entered at both Aqueduct (race two) and Philadelphia Park (race five). She'll obviously scratch out of one of those races but she is an important filly to watch as she's a half-sister to The Green Monkey, the $16 million yearling purchased in 2006.

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