The Brock Talk

Monday, August 2, 2010

Lucky Answers In Haskell Create More Questions

No doubt that IZOD Haskell Invitational winner Lookin at Lucky stepped to the head of the 3-year-old class with his impressive run in the $1,000,000 race Sunday at Monmouth Park. The question is: Where will he run next? The most obvious option would be to stay on the East Coast and make his final prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the $1 million Travers Stakes (gr. 1) Aug. 28. Another option is for trainer Bob Baffert to return to the West Coast with Lookin at Lucky and race against older horses in the $1 million Pacific Classic (gr. 1) at Del Mar the same day. There is even speculation on Daily News that the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (gr. 2) at Philadelphia Park September 25 may be a possibility.

My money is on the Travers for a number of different reasons.

First, the Travers is run a natural dirt main track at Saratoga. With the ultimate goal for Lookin at Lucky now being the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, also on a natural dirt surface, the Travers would provide the better preparation from strictly a surface standpoint. But with Lookin at Lucky having won 8 career races at 6 different tracks from ProRride to Poly-track to natural dirt from Southern California to Arkansas, Maryland and now New Jersey, it appears he can carry his racetrack with him anywhere.

With many competitors from the Haskell plus Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. 2) winner A Little Warm expected to be going to the Travers, the fan pressure will be on owners Mike Pegram (photo), Karl Watson and Paul Weitman to send Lookin at Lucky to the Travers. The fans usually don’t have much influence in these decisions however. But prestige does and despite both races being grade 1s, the Travers has the history and the prestige.

The Travers also has the attention of the thoroughbred breeders in Kentucky. There is little doubt a Travers win has a bigger influence on a stallion’s post race value compared to the Pacific Classic. And a horse can run in million dollar races for years and never accumulate enough purse money to approach their stallion value. Especially with a horse like Lookin at Lucky who already has a classic victory in the Preakness and a 2-year-old championship on his resume as well as attractive bloodlines being by the successful stallion Smart Strike who stands for $75,000 per live foal Lane's End in Versailles, Kentucky.

Lookin at Lucky is now the leader of the 3-year-old division, but has by no means wrapped up the title as Champion 3-Year-Old. A win in what looks to be a light Pacific Classic would do little to enhance those chances if Super Saver were to win the Travers. Or if Super Saver lost the Travers then came back to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Lookin at Lucky would be hard pressed to even be considered without a Travers win. Don’t scoff too hard at Super Saver having a big day at Churchill Downs again without knowing what the chances of rain might be in Louisville on November 6.

One thing is for sure however. And that is the Haskell seemed to be Lookin at Lucky’s coming out party. Anybody that is going to catch him is going to have to show some of that same transformative improvement that can happen to 3-year-olds this time of year. Trappe Shot (photo), Super Saver and maybe A Little Warm seem to be likely candidates now. I’m afraid First Dude will not benefit from the 1-1/4 mile distance of the Travers and Classic. Ice Box should benefit from the distance, but will need to find that kick he had in Florida and Kentucky to have chance of taking advantage. The Monmouth Park race track was certainly not conducive to his late running style, so there’s a bit of an excuse there too.

But no matter the potential, excuse or misfortunes of those left in Lookin at Lucky’s wake in the Haskell, as least they know which direction to point their guns. Now let’s see if Baffert gives them a shot before the Breeders’ Cup.

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