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Mar 19, 2010

Impressive Return for Lookin At Lucky

By: by Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The margin of victory was scant once again, but all Lookin At Lucky does is win races.

The two-year-old champion made his 2010 debut a winning one taking the Rebel Stakes last Saturday at Oaklawn Park by only a head over Noble's Promise. The 6-5 favorite got up in the final jump for his sixth victory in seven lifetime starts, with only one coming by more than a length.

The Rebel was the third straight race Lookin At Lucky tangled with Noble's Promise and the Bob Baffert-trained colt has bested his arch-rival each and every time. This one was most impressive, especially since the son of Smart Strike might not have even finished the race due to a scary moment down the backstretch.

As Dublin, the 7-5 second choice, was ranging up from behind Lookin At Lucky in the four-path, jockey Garrett Gomez (in the three-path) chose to keep pace with his challenger by pushing his colt forward as well. Unfortunately, Gomez rode his horse right on the heels of Noble's Promise, who was sitting in third just ahead of Lookin At Lucky, and had to pull back on the reins, losing a good two-lengths in the process.

Last year's Eclipse-Award winner regrouped to wear down his adversary at the wire, ending all speculation that he would not be able to handle true dirt after six straight races over synthetics.

Lookin At Lucky will now try to duplicate the feats of the last three Kentucky Derby champions (Mine That Bird, Big Brown and Street Sense) by winning the Run for the Roses with only two three-year-old prep races.

As for Noble's Promise, there's no shame in running second in his initial start of the year and on conventional dirt. He easily rebuffed Dublin's challenge at the top of the stretch and would have won if the race was a tad shorter. The bay colt can and will be able to handle a distance of ground, which is the one knock on the son of Cuvee.

His dam side is loaded with long distance turf stakes winners, which should assist him in his quest for glory on the first Saturday in May. His mother, The Devil's Trick, is a half-sister to New Economy, who won the 2002 La Prevoyante at 1 1/2-miles, and his second dam, Sunyata, is a half-sister to Battle Creek Girl, who produced multiple graded stakes horses, including Parade Ground, winner of the 1 1/4-mile Lexington Stakes at Belmont Park.

Dublin, the third-place horse, should improve next time out after being the recipient of an ill-timed ride from Corey Nakatani. After closing stoutly in the Southwest Stakes in February, the chestnut son of Afleet Alex had to make two moves in the Rebel despite being carried five-wide around the first turn.

First, Nakatani forced him into a very fast 23 2/5 second-quarter and then parlayed that into a four-wide sweep on the final turn. Come the homestretch, it was obvious the horse had little left to stay with the likes of Lookin At Lucky and Noble's Promise.

With a better ride in the Arkansas Derby, Dublin should be better equipped to compete with Noble's Promise (and maybe Lookin At Lucky if that one returns to Oaklawn Park), but questions about his ability to go nine furlongs will surely be an issue.

The final time for the 1 1/16-mile race was 1:43 seconds flat, 3/5ths of a second faster than the fillies ran in the Honeybee Stakes an hour earlier. Moreover, it was Lookin At Lucky's and Noble Promise's first starts of the season so there is definitely room for improvement. Either way, these two colts have what it takes to be serious Kentucky Derby threats.

AN UNFORGETTABLE PHOTO

Down at Oldsmar, Florida, Odysseus and Schoolyard dreams battled to the wire in the Tampa Bay Derby with a nose separating the two colts. At first glance, it appeared the five, Schoolyard Dreams held off the late surge from number seven Odysseus, but when the numbers flashed on the tote board, it read seven over five.

The margin of victory was an amazing turnaround for Odysseus, who came into the Grade 3 event off a 15-length win in an allowance race. Even more remarkable than getting his nose in front at the wire was how he pulled off the victory in the first place.

Hard-ridden throughout the run down the backstretch, the lightly-raced son of Malibu Moon was left for dead after Schoolyard Dreams swept by him around the final turn. Even longshot Gleam of Hope passed the 2-1 second choice at the top of the stretch.

Surprisingly, Odysseus found another gear and jockey Rajiv Maragh split horses inside the final sixteenth to win by the smallest of margins. The final time was the same 1:44 1/5 he ran in his previous race and only one tick slower than Rule ran in winning the Sam F. Davis.

Odysseus has license to progress as the year moves along, but he's still very green at this stage of his career. And if he goes to Kentucky without another prep race, it's extremely doubtful he'll be up to the challenge to win the nation's most prestigious event.

As for Super Saver, his 2010 debut should prove valuable in his continued development despite finishing third. Remember, he hung on gamely through the stretch losing by only a half-length when it appeared his day was through.

Schoolyard Dreams proved as the fourth choice in the betting that he cannot be taken lightly. On the other hand, this could be the end of the line for local hero Uptowncharlybrown after a disappointing fifth-place finish. With very little graded earnings, it's doubtful he'll remain on the Kentucky Derby trail.

Still, he wasn't disgraced in the loss since he was checked by Super Saver going into the first turn and had little running room on the rail through the stretch. Expect a much better performance in his next outing, especially if his connections do the smart thing and replace jockey Daniel Centeno.

JOE TALAMO STEALS SAN FELIPE

There were a lot of questions going into the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe Stakes concerning Sidney's Candy's ability to wire the field, and after the race, the subject matter still hasn't been answered due to Joe Talamo's fantastic ride aboard the chestnut colt.

American Lion and Interactif failed to mount any sort of early challenge to Sidney's Candy so Talamo was allowed to ration out Candy Ride's speed through much of the race with incredibly slow fractions of 24 1/5 and 48 2/5. After six-furlongs had been run in a pedestrian 1:13 2/5 (a 25 second third- quarter), the race was all but over. The John Sadler-trained three-year-old hung on for an easy half-length victory over Interactif with the Robert B. Lewis winner Caracortado finishing third.

It will be interesting to see if Talamo and Sidney's Candy will be able to control the pace in the Santa Anita Derby the way they did this past Saturday. If so, there's a good chance he'll be able to win going nine-furlongs. If not, he won't be a significant player at Churchill Downs come May 1.

As for the rest of the field, Interactif fared very well in his first Pro-Ride experience and should be a force in the rematch. Caracortado, ran effectively, but wasn't up to the task after being victimized by the slow pace.

Fourth-place finisher American Lion is definitely not a two-turn horse on Pro- Ride while Dave in Dixie proved he is simply not good enough.

THE NEW JEFF FRANK TOP 12

1) Lookin At Lucky; 2) Alphie's Bet; 3) Eskendereya; 4) Noble's Promise; 5) Make Music for Me; 6) Dublin; 7) Super Saver; 8) Awesome Act; 9) Rule; 10) Stay Put; 11) Connemara; 12) Radiohead.



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