Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Lookin at Lucky was the Juvenile Champion of 2009. That year, he won six of seven starts, with only a narrow, tough luck defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The attractive son of Smart Strike followed that lone two-year-old loss with a score in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity in his juvenile finale. The ¾-length victory came at the expense of Noble’s Promise, a horse that he passed late while just missing the win in the Breeders’ Cup. It would not be the last time the two would battle.
The pair would meet again for the third consecutive time, but this one was three months later, and halfway across the country, in the Rebel Stakes in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Once again, Lookin at Lucky would get the better of his talented rival, but this time it would take every inch of the 8 ½ furlongs of the Oaklawn Park trip.
In both horse’s three-year-old debut, Noble's Promise ran his usual bang-up stalking race. Sitting comfortably just off the early lead, he moved towards the lead on the far turn in tandem with the highly regarded Dublin. Meanwhile, Lookin at Lucky was not so lucky.
Recovering quickly from a scary check midway through the backstretch, he tried to stay in touch with the other two favorites from the outside. As the Rebel field came spinning out of the far turn in front of a large and appreciative crowd, it was apparent that it had become a three-horse race, but Lookin at Lucky was the one who had the most to do.
Noble Promise surged on the rail to get the better of Dublin, but Lookin at Lucky was now rolling on the outside under Garrett Gomez. As the familiar pair strode ever closer to the finish line, the champion dug down deep for something extra. It was never clear if he was going to catch his challenger until the very final jump, when Lookin at Lucky stuck his nose out in front.
I’ve seen a lot of editions of the Rebel over the years, but this one, from four years ago, is one of my favorites. Looking at Lucky demonstrated a strong ability to overcome in his initial run as a three-year-old. It was the only way he was going to get the best of his classy foe, after the trouble he encountered.
Of course, that became the thing with the Bob Baffert charge - he proved anything but lucky. Still, he would go on to win 9-of-13 lifetime, including important wins in the Preakness and Haskell, as well as, the Indiana Derby, on his way to a second straight Eclipse Award. He remains the only horse to win both the 2yo Male Championship and 3yo Male Championship since the great Spectacular Bid turned the trick in 1978 and 1979. I just wish that the 2010 Rebel winner got the chance to show what he could have done as an older horse. Who knows how good he would have been.