Lookin At Lucky established himself as the early favorite for the Derby with a convincing win in Saturday's $750,000 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park. Then Blind Luck was even more impressive as an early Oaks contender in winning Sunday's $400,000 Hollywood Starlet over the same track.
Lookin At Lucky, a Kentucky-bred Smart Strike colt, probably also cemented an Eclipse Award as this year's best 2-year-old male as he picked up his fifth win in six starts in the Futurity. The only defeat was an unlucky second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last month, when he was forced to start from the far outside and had traffic issues.
With regular rider Garrett Gomez up for trainer Bob Baffert, Lookin At Lucky was eager to run early in the Futurity. But when Gomez tapped the breaks, he settled behind stablemate The Program down the backstretch. Turning for home, The Program cleared room on the inside for Lookin At Lucky and Gomez steered him through and to the lead.
Noble's Promise, who finished third in the Breeder's Cup, made a late run but finished second, 3/4 length back. Make Music for Me was third.
Baffert won the Futurity for the fifth time. Last year, he sent Pioneerof the Nile to win the Futurity and he later got home second in the Kentucky Derby. Baffert clearly is headed back to Churchill Downs.
"We're just going to freshen him up and I'll probably run him about two times" before the Derby, Baffert said, indicating Lookin At Lucky will try real dirt before the big race. Asked where, he said: "I don't know. I haven't figured it out. He might ship out. I don't know. But I've got a lot of nice horses. I've got to spread them all out."
Another of Baffert's youngsters, Tiz Crome, easily won the $50,000 Stuka Stakes five races before the Futurity, drawing off easily in the stretch to win by 4 lengths, also under Gomez. And Clutch Player won the seventh race for the white-haired trainer. "That Tiz Chrome, he's a pretty serious horse," Baffert said of the Kentucky-bred Tiznow colt. "I like the way he ran. And the other one, Clutch Player, he's going to run two turns. So it's good to be in this spot but you need a lot of bullets in this game. You never get too excited."
In other weekend events for the 2-year-olds, all of whom turn 3 on New Year's Day:
-- Cool Bullet pressed the pace in Saturday's $60,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds, got to the front early in the stretch and held off Big Texas Daddy at the end to win by a head. Enumerate accounted for third. Cool Bullet, a Florida-bred Red Bullet gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.85 with Brian Hernandez Jr. riding for trainer Steve Margolis. "He has shown us some good progression and I think he can go two turns," Margolis said, indicating Cool Bullet might be a participant in the Louisiana Derby preps.
Kentucky Oaks preps
As impressive as Lookin At Lucky was in the Futurity, Blind Luck was even moreso in Sunday's $400,000 Hollywood Starlet.
The Kentucky-bred Pollard's Vision filly, a close third in last month's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, let others dictate the pace until the stretch turn. Then, when jockey Rafael Bejarano got her room outside rivals, she accelerated sharply, easily blew by the leaders and won off by 7 lengths, finishing 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:41.96.
Miss Heather Lee, a longshot from Bob Baffert's barn, took second with Amen Hallelujah third.
Blind Luck, now trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, started her career winning a $10,000 claimer at Calder in June. She then moved west, finished second in the Darley Debutante at Del Mar, won the Oak Leaf at Santa Anita and took third in the Breeders' Cup, just 3/4 length from the winner.
"Wow!" Bejarano said after the Starlet. "I worked her the last four times and she's been unbelievable in the morning. She's been relaxing so well in her works and has been showing a big turn of foot. She did the same thing today … I had so much horse I wanted to wait as long as I could."
"That was exciting," Hollendorfer agreed. "I've never seen her move like that."
He said the race "stamps her up pretty good as one of the contenders … If it looks like she's doing well between races, we might wait for the Las Virgenes. Our long-range goal is the Kentucky Oaks."
Elsewhere among the 2-year-old fillies:
-- My Jen stalked the pace in Saturday's $60,000 Letellier Memorial Stakes at Fair Grounds, seized the lead a furlong from home and held off the favorite, Visavis, in the final strides to win by a nose. Sheer Beauty was 1 1/4 lengths farther back in third. My Jen, with Jamie Theriot in the irons for trainer Eddie Kenneally, got the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.55. "She's a nice filly," Theriot said. "She's got enough speed to put you in the race where you need to be on her own."
-- On Friday at Fair Grounds, Bella Medaglia rallied from off the pace to win the $43,000 feature for maiden fillies. The daughter of Medaglia d'Oro, got her first win in her second start, beating Josaka by 3 lengths in 1:42.35.
-- Rapid Racer got to the lead at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $50,000 Gowell Stakes at Turfway Park, shook clear and won by 1 3/4 lengths over Henry's Posse. Offlee Funny was third. Rapid Racer, a Kentucky-bred Forest Wildcat filly, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.97 with John McKee up for trainer Paul McGee.
-- King's Water Lilly circled the field on the turn in Sunday's $125,000 Enchantress Stakes for New Mexico-bred juvenile fillies at Sunland Park, quickly opened a big lead and got home first, 3 1/2 lengths to the good of Wild Time Tonight. Girl Con was sentenced to third. King's Water Lilly, a bay daughter of King of the Hunt, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:40.41 with Rico Flores aboard.
In other weekend racing:
With the regularly scheduled Santa Super Saturday events and Louisiana Champions Day stakes postponed last weekend by bad weather, racing fans in the Big Easy had a full day of high-class racing.
Star Guitar rallied four-wide around the leaders in Saturday's $150,000 Champions Day Classic and drew off like an odds-on favorite should, winning by 7 3/4 lengths. Ide Like a Double was second and Takin' the Bullet finished third. Star Guitar, a 4-year-old Quiet American colt, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:52.15 under Curt Borque. Trainer Al Stall Jr. said Star Guitar is on the way to becoming one of the all-time top Louisiana breds and will point for the $200,000 Louisiana Premier Night Championship Feb. 6 at Delta Downs. But, he added: "Hopefully, I'm not there. Hopefully, I'm in Miami at the Super Bowl" with the New Orleans Saints.
Flashy Wise Cat came from near the back of the pack to win the $100,000 Champions Day Sprint by 4 1/2 lengths over Lee City Slew with Power Surge third. Flashy Wise Cat, a 4-year-old Catastrophe colt, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.86 under Shane Sellers.
Desert Wheat took charge in the stretch run in the $100,000 Champions Day Turf, scoring by 4 lengths over Nowandforevermore. High Toned was third. Desert Wheat, a 6-year-old son of Wheaton, ran the "about" 1 1/16 miles on yielding turf in 1:49.45. Corey Lanerie had the mount for trainer Bill Mott.
War Echo proved too much for a quartet of rivals in Saturday's $100,000 Daily Racing Form Stakes for fillies and mares, winning by 3 1/2 lengths over Unforgotten. It was another 9 3/4 lengths back to No Use Denying in third as the photo finish crew took a break. War Echo, a 3-year-old, Kentucky-bred Tapit filly, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:52.2 with Shaun Bridgmohan riding. Steve Asmussen trains.
She's Our Annie led from the start and won the $60,000 Esplanade Stakes for fillies and mares by 2 1/2 lengths over Juliet's Spirit. Northern Belle was third. She's Our Annie, a 3-year-old, Florida-bred filly by Medaglia d'Oro, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on the main track in 1:03.97 with Jon Court at the controls.
Seven Seventythree came from far back in Saturday's $100,000 Champions Day Ladies Sprint, split rivals in the stretch run and quickly jetted off to win by 8 lengths. Cajun Conference, leader at the top of the lane, held second and Skipping Town was third. Seven Seventythree, a 3-year-old Littleexpectations filly, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:11.53 for jockey Shaun Bridgmohan.
Grand Traverse stalked the pace in the $60,000 Bonapaw Stakes, rallied down the middle of the track and got by to win by 2 lengths over the favorite, Grand Adventure. The Grand-Grand exacta paid $163 and Storm Treasure was third. Grand Traverse, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred Pioneering gelding, ran the "about" 5 1/2 furlongs on yielding turf in 1:05.81 with Victor Lebron up.
Sunday, Good and Lucky came from well off the pace to win the $60,000 Tenacious Handicap, beating Secret Getaway by 1 3/4 lengths. Tend was third while the favorite, Dubious Miss, faded to finish sixth. Good and Lucky, a 6-year-old, Florida-bred Wild Rush gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.34 under Shane Sellers. Josie Carroll trains the winner.
Ez Dreamer, at odds-on, easily won Saturday's $50,000 Cactus Wren Handicap for Arizona-breds, drawing off easily in the stretch to score by 5 1/4 lengths, ridden out. One Call was best of the rest with White Spar completing the trifecta. Ez Dreamer, with Glenn Corbett in the irons, got the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.89.