The 2009 Juvenile Champion, Lookin At Lucky, didn't have to worry about post position draws, getting slammed into the rail, jumping shadows on the backstretch, or Middle Eastern invaders stealing his thunder on Saturday in Baltimore. He more than lived up to the billing and won the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, the 2010 Preakness.
The Preakness was the first pairing of Lookin At Lucky and jockey Martin Garcia by trainer Bob Baffert, who won his FIFTH Preakness as a conditioner on Saturday. Prior to Saturday, Lookin At Lucky had been ridden by Garrett Gomez, who ended up with the ride aboard Dublin and he had to work hard with that one to finish fifth after a severe right turn directly at the start. There were no excuses for Lookin At Lucky this time. I have said many times on this blog that he might be the worst-named horse ever because the one thing he wasn't was lucky. There was no need for luck in the 135th Preakness. Lookin At Lucky made a tremendous move around the turn to take control of the race in the stretch and then fended off the challenges of First Dude, who had set the sizzling pace that did in the Derby winner, Super Saver, Jackson Bend, who will now have his turn with the excuses because he was the unlucky one Saturday, and longshot Yawanna Twist.
On Jackson Bend, he appeared to be well-positioned by jockey Mike Smith up the backstretch to pounce on First Dude and Super Saver once the speedsetters faded back into the field. However, while Super Saver did, First Dude didn't. As a result, Smith had to move Jackson Bend all over the place in the stretch to get some room and by the time he did, it was too late and third was the best he could do.
While it was a tremendous Preakness, there is a tinge of melancholy with it given the announcement by both Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher that their horses will go no further in the Triple Crown. Neither Lookin At Lucky nor Super Saver will advance to New York to run in the 1 1/2 mile Belmont Stakes. While I cannot say I am surprised, I can say I am disappointed. First Dude, the Preakness runner-up, will go to New York and Nick Zito will bring back Ice Box from his runner-up spot in the Derby. Last time I checked, the Belmont Stakes was supposed to be the "Test Of Champions" not the "Test of Runners-up".
This situation has already heightened the call that the Triple Crown needs to be altered as far as the space between the races. I have long been an advocate for running the races on the first Saturdays of May, June, and July. The sport has changed to the point where these horses are just not created or trained anymore to be successful with the three longest races they will likely ever run coming within a five-week span. Those who like things the way they are, well, I cordially disagree. Horse racing needs celebrities now more than ever. Whatever we can do to further promote the game and make it possible for our champions to run is what we have to do. I have a fairly good notion that one of the two winners of the Triple Crown races might at least be entertaining the idea of going to Belmont now, rather than just automatically dismiss it.
Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!
Photo courtesy of gather.com