The Brock Talk

Monday, May 10, 2010

Baffert Made The Right Decision With Jockey Gomez

More often than not, I'm the last in line to criticize jockeys. Their split-second decisions under potentially deadly conditions simply fall into the "How do they do that?" chapter in my book. Jockey feelings aside, I am just as cautious in my support of most rider changes on good horses. Circumstances are sometimes the doom of a relationship between jockey and a given horse. And to make a rider change in the pressure cooking environment during the five weeks of the Triple Crown, to me, sounds like a risky venture at best and an all out panic or childish blame by the owner and/or trainer at worst.

But in the case of trainer Bob Baffert dimplomaticlly telling Lookin at Lucky's jockey Garrett Gomez that he should perhaps "find another mount in the Preakness", the move seems justified. Kindly saying he just wanted to change the luck of the horse and that there was nothing Gomez could have done from the one hole in Derby, Baffert and owner Karl Watson, Paul Weitman and Mike Pegram must have seen the same thing many of us saw during the the first 100 yards of the Kentucky Derby (gr. 1) presented by Yum! Brands in which Lookin at Lucky began losing any chance to win.

Just out of the gate, Lookin at Lucky broke well along the rail. As expected Ice Box dropped back from the two hole while Noble's Promise broke from the three and Calvin Borel and Super Saver broke from the four. Within a few strides, Borel began steering Super Saver toward the rail, crowding Noble's Promise, who crowded Lookin at Lucky who was forced to check.

With Noble's Promise and Super Saver in front of him, Gomez had no place go with Lookin at Lucky as the field began to converge toward the inside rail as the field passed by the twin spires for the first time. By the time Stately Victor, a closer who broke from the six post, again slammed Lookin at Lucky into the rail, again forcing him further back still, the Kentucky Derby was all but over for the Lucky camp.

Before the Kentucky Derby Baffert acknowledged the challenge Gomez would have from the inside post, saying he was going to have to ride a super race early to overcome the impending traffic. But while Calvin Borel was able to clear the trouble from just three gates further out - and even strategically causing the first problems for Looking at Lucky with his quick dash for the rail - Gomez was not able to gun Lookin at Lucky out of trouble and has now paid the price for it.

Saturday Ron Anderson, the agent for Gomez, confirmed that they would not ride Lookin at Lucky in the Preakness and would instead by aboard Dublin for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Baffert is reportedly considering jockey Martin Garcia to take over the riding assignment aboard Lookin at Lucky. Garcia, who rides regularly for Baffert and just won the Lone Star Derby (gr. 3) for Baffert Saturday, also rode Conveyance to a 15th-place finish in the Derby for the Baffert team.

Garcia is said to be more aggressive than Gomez as exhibited in the Derby, and is very good at getting horses to engage early on in a race.

Derby Winner Puts In Final Work At Churchill
Going to the track for his only serious work before the Preakness Stakes Saturday, Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver breezed three furlongs at Churchill Downs in :36.60 with Calvin Borel aboard. After the work, Borel allowed Super Saver to gallop around the turn and was clocked in a well-paced 1:02 for five-eighths of a mile.

Trainer Todd Pletcher was very pleased with the effort by Borel and Super Saver telling Daily Racing Form that he wanted, "an easy three-eighths and gallop out an easy half. It's amazing how effortless the horse was in doing it."

I assume the work fits well into Borel's plans to win the Triple Crown with Super Saver.

Other Preakness contenders to work Monday included the D.Wayne Lukas pair of Dublin and Northern Giant. Dublin, with jockey Garrett Gomez aboard, worked a half-mile in 48.40 while Northern Giant went three-eighths of a mile in 36.40. Derby Trial (gr. 3) winner Hurricane Ike took jockey Robby Alabarado seven furlongs in 1:25.80 and Yawanna Twist went five furlongs in 1:01.60.

Rachel Alexandra Also Works
Rachel Alexandra, the 2009 Horse of Year who has finished a close second in her only two starts this year, also made the Monday work tab at Churchill Downs. In her first work since her defeat in the Le Troienne Stakes (gr. 2) April 30 at Churchill, Rachel Alexandra went an easy half-mile in :52 seconds. Trainer Steve Asmussen said no decision has been made as to her next start.


John said...

I agree about the rider switch for Lookin At Lucky, and if Garcia gets the mount, he's a logical choice for the reasons you've given. Whoever is aboard, I hope the horse gets a decent trip and can run for an entire race.

I'd like to see Lookin At Lucky get a good draw to, although I don't know how critical it is compared to the Derby draw. The race could fill to, which will make it all the more exciting.

I've got two other horses I like for the Preakness as well as LAL.

Unknown said...

For the sake of argument, I'm gonna side with GoGo. As you write, Brock, Calvin Borel and Super Saver started from the four hole and broke alertly which gave them a HUGE edge early in the race. I thought drawing the one- hole DOOMED Lookin' At Lucky as soon as he drew the inside spot. GoGo had to have SO MANY things go right AND nothing go wrong --IMHO-- to escape "the luck of the draw." It just did not happen.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes oil and water don't mix. Either Lookin at Lucky doesn't respond to Gomez or Gomez has unrealistic expectations of "L A L's" ability to move in and out of tight spots. This horse really should be close to unbeaten. No other horse has shown his tenacity; it is only fair to give the horse a chance with another rider.

Unknown said...

I agree that GoGo was in a very difficult position which Baffert recognized before the race. I just get the feeling that Baffert may have also told Garrett to gun LALucky a little more than he did (or was able to, to be fair). After the SA Derby and perhaps some pressure from the ownership, it may have been the proverbial unjustified straw that broke Baffert's patience.