At Preakness Stakes, Lookin At Lucky rewards Bob Baffert's gamble
BALTIMORE -- He was knocked into the rails at Santa Anita and body-slammed twice in the Kentucky Derby.
But fortune finally smiled on Lookin At Lucky on Saturday, as the gifted colt, for whom so many races had proved calamitous these last months, thundered to victory in the Preakness Stakes with a furious charge to the wire.
Pumping both arms with equal fury as the horse edged First Dude across the finish by three-quarters of a length was 25-year-old jockey Martín García, the youngest rider in the field, who was installed as Lucky's mount by trainer Bob Baffert less than one week ago in a move that was as daring as it was prescient.
Baffert's reward in the $1 million race was redemption many times over.
It was redemption for taking a gamble on García, who just five years ago was a cook in a Northern California delicatessen, oblivious to the significance of thoroughbred racing's third Saturday in May.
It was redemption for García, who wanted nothing more than to ride beautiful racehorses and, finally given the chance, did everything he was asked.
And it was redemption, above all, for Lookin At Lucky, anointed the best 2-year-old in the nation last season but denied the opportunity, at least until Saturday, to flex his prodigious muscle, heart and grit in a major race against a field of 3-year olds.
But in winning the Preakness, Lucky denied the racing industry any hope of delivering a Triple Crown champion this season.
Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, a 2-1 favorite to claim the series' middle jewel at Pimlico Race Course, ran well out of the gate but sputtered when it mattered most and finished eighth, more than 11 lengths in arrears.
First Dude was second, followed by Jackson Bend and Yawanna Twist.
The afternoon's other big winner was the Preakness itself, which saw attendance surge 23 percent, to 95,760, presumably on the appeal of a controversial ad campaign, "Get Your Preak On."
It was an effort to woo back disaffected infield revelers who sat out last year's race in protest of a policy banning them from bringing in their own alcohol. Attendance dropped to 77,850, the smallest since 1983, as a result.