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Lookin At Lucky 4-5 favorite in Santa Anita Derby

Arcadia, CA. (March 31, 2010) - Lookin at Lucky, trainer Bob Baffert's near-perfect Kentucky Derby prospect, is the 4-5 morning line choice among 10 entrants to the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby, the west's premier steppingstone to the Kentucky Derby. 


A victory in the 73rd running would move last year’s 2-year-old champion alongside Affirmed, who in 1978 became the only juvenile kingpin to win the Santa Anita Derby, en route to becoming racing’s last winner of the Triple Crown.


Lookin At Lucky also could extend Baffert’s record of Santa Anita Derby victories to six, increase his earnings to $1,873,000 for owners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, and entrench his tug-o-war with Eastern-based Eskendereya for pre-Kentucky Derby favoritism.


Baffert had been considering Oaklawn Park’s $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 10 for Lookin At Lucky’s final Kentucky Derby prep, but decided to stay home after a six-furlong work in 1:12 at Santa Anita on Sunday. “The Arkansas Derby would have given us a week more from his last race,” Baffert said, “but he worked really well here, and he’s ready to go.”


The Santa Anita Derby will be but the second start this year for the Smart Strike colt purchased last April for $475,000 before proceeding to win five of six starts worth $1,243,000. Only a troubled head loss to Vale of York in Oak Tree’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile separates him from perfection. With three Grade I victories in 2009, the Eclipse Award became his.


Lookin At Lucky returned this year wearing blinkers and rallied stoutly to score a hard-earned neck victory over Noble’s Promise in the Grade II, $300,000 Rebel Stakes on March 13 under regular rider Garrett Gomez. America’s money won leader the past four years, Gomez won his first Santa Anita Derby last year with his first mount in the event, Pioneerof the Nile.


Post time for the Santa Anita Derby will be at approximately 2:40 p.m. It will go as the sixth race on an 11-race program with first post at 12 noon. The Derby will be telecast by NBC as part of its “Racing to the Kentucky Derby” program that gets underway at 2 p.m. and includes Aqueduct’s Grade I Wood Memorial featuring Eskendereya.


The Santa Anita card, which will be televised in its entirety by HRTV, includes three Grade II stakes races: the $150,000 Arcadia Handicap at one mile on turf, the $150,000 Potrero Grande Handicap at 6 ½ furlongs, and the $150,000 Providencia Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on turf.


While Lookin At Lucky indeed is the focal point, the deep field for the Santa Anita Derby includes two horses, Sidney’s Candy and Caracortado, that are consensus choices among the Top 10 Triple Crown candidates. A third entrant, Alphie’s Bet, is not far behind.


Recent history suggests that simply competing in the Santa Anita Derby can bode well for the first Saturday in May. Eight Santa Anita Derby winners have proceeded to capture the Kentucky Derby, but none since Sunday Silence in 1989. During the last 15 years alone, four horses that were beaten in the Santa Anita Derby went on to glory in Kentucky.


Kentucky Derby winners Silver Charm (1997) and Real Quiet (1998) finished second in the Santa Anita Derby. Charismatic (1999) and Giacomo (2005) both were out-of-the-money on the first Saturday in April at Arcadia. Moreover, none of the four was favored in the Santa Anita Derby.


Sidney’s Candy, the 3-1 second choice on Santa Anita oddsmaker Jon White’s morning line, is expected to take the lead. As evidenced by his triumph in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on March 13, he could be hard to catch. He preceded his San Felipe victory with a wire-to-wire win by 4 ¼ lengths at seven furlongs in the Grade II San Vicente Stakes.


A homebred son of Candy Ride owned by the Sid and Jenny Craig Trust, Sidney’s Candy is jockey Joe Talamo’s ticket back to the Kentucky Derby. One year ago, at the age of 19, Talamo was the rider of Derby morning line favorite I Want Revenge, who was scratched the morning of the race after developing an ankle injury.


Sidney’s Candy also memorializes weight reduction guru Sid Craig, who died in July of 2008, five years after the Craigs purchased Candy Ride. He was unbeaten in six races during the 2003 season including Del Mar’s $1 million Pacific Classic before foot problems ended his racing career.


Sidney’s Candy enters the Santa Anita Derby with a 3-1-0 record in five starts for earnings of $223,560. His trainer, John Sadler, is headed toward a second successive Santa Anita training title, but he has made little impression with two previous Santa Anita Derby starters.


California-bred gelding Caracortado had his unbeaten string of five victories broken when third, two lengths behind Sidney’s Candy, as the 7-5 favorite in the San Felipe. The stretch-runner was compromised by relatively slow early fractions in the San Felipe and his connections are hoping for a faster pace in the Derby.


The unfashionably bred son of Cat Dreams, third choice at 5-1 on the morning line, seems to fancy the underdog role. His jockey, Paul Atkinson, doesn’t get many riding calls, evidenced by the fact he had five wins from just 35 mounts at entry time. At the age of 40, Atkinson scored his biggest career victory when Caracortado won the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes by 1 ¾ lengths on Feb. 13.


Caracortado’s co-owner and trainer, Mike Machowsky, operates a successful, but low volume stable. He and partner Don Blahut are pledged to keeping Atkinson in the saddle should their blue collar symbol with an income of $217,200 continue on to Kentucky.


Alphie’s Bet, pegged at 8-1 on the Derby morning line, is coming off a powerful 2 ¼-length victory under Alex Solis in the Grade III Sham Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on March 6. “He’s big, he’s strong, and he’ll run all day,” Solis said of the California-bred son of Tribal rule who is trained by Alexis Barba for Peter O. Johnson and breeder Teresa McWilliams.


Alphie’s Bet, with a 2-1-0 record in five starts for earnings of $141,320, has blossomed as his distances have increased. Barba, who trains a small stable, could join Jenine Sahadi, who saddled The Deputy in 2000, as the only female trainers to win the Santa Anita Derby.


The complete field for Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby, with jockeys and morning line odds (each starter carries 122 pounds): Posse Power, Leslie Mawing, 50-1; Thomas Baines, Joel Rosario, 50-1; Who’s Up, Victor Espinoza, 20-1; Sidney’s Candy, Joseph Talamo, 3-1; Setsuko, Rafael Bejarano, 20-1; Caracortado, Paul Atkinson, 5-1; Lookin At Lucky, Garrett Gomez, 4-5; Cardiff Giant, Christian Santiago Reyes, 30-1; Skipshot, Frank Alvarado, 30-1, and Alphie’s Bet, Alex Solis, 8-1.

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What the Nation is saying about Lookin At Lucky 4-5 favorite in Santa Anita Derby...

I wouldn't be surprise to see a big run from Caracortado in this race. But, as I've said before, unless he just comes out and circles Santa Anita backwards, not Caracortado, not Sidney's Candy, or any other 3yr.old for that matter, is going to beat Lookin At Lucky on the Santa Anita poly-track. Looking back to November, and seeing his form now, I think it was a fluke that Vale of York was able to get up to beat him in the 09' B.C. Juvenile. Dirt for Lookin At Lucky, however, is another story. Although he answered the dirt question by winning the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn, that wasn't what you would really call an overpowering field, IMO, and he was just barely able to get up for that win. At Churchill Downs, LAL is going to be facing several proven dirt running 3yr.olds, that unless he improves on dirt off of the Rebel, my be able to get him. That's why, IMO, Bob Baffert would have been much better served to have left LAL at Oaklawn, and a run in the Arkansas Derby, to get another conventional dirt start under his belt. I really think that would serve him better than another poly-track start at Santa Anita going into Churchill Downs next. TJMO.

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