It’s fairly certain that Lookin at Lucky, the Preakness winner and last year’s 2-year-old champion, will be crowned with an Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old colt of 2010. And it’s amazing to recall that this handsome colt failed to sell for $35,000 at the 2008 Keeneland September sale, when everyone had a shot to get him.
Why’d he not sell? He was operated on in April of 2008 in both stifles for OCD lesions and also had “mild sesamoiditis” in his left front ankle “moderate mid-sagittal ridge erosion” in his right front ankle and “moderate sesamoiditis” in his left hind ankle, according to a veterinarian’s report first made public in the Paulick Report.
Breeders Lance Robinson and Jerry Bailey put the son of Smart Strike back into the Keeneland April 2-year-olds in training sale in 2009, where Bob Baffert bought him for $475,000 after he’d registered a quick work.
When Baffert purchased Lookin at Lucky, he didn’t know about the colt’s surgery as a yearling—and he probably wouldn’t have cared. Baffert has knowingly and unknowingly defied veterinary reports throughout his career. He was unaware when he paid $17,000 for Real Quiet, the 1998 Derby and Preakness winner, that the colt had undergone a procedure as an April yearling for transphyseal bridging to fix a case of knock-knees. And Baffert purchased a 90 percent stake in War Emblem, the 2002 Derby winner, after the Illinois Derby and weeks before the Derby after other potential buyers had passed on him for veterinary reasons.
There are similarities with Real Quiet and Lookin at Lucky because both raced in the colors of Mike Pegram and the breeders of both colts were assisted by the late pedigree advisor Jack Werk.
Pedigree in both cases ended up trumping the veterinarians and the physicals, with Baffert behind the wheel.
About Real Quiet, Baffert told me years ago when the colt had won the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity: “He’s one of my better buys. When I bought him, Pegram came over, looked at the pedigree page, and asked, ‘What’s he have, cancer?’ ‘The Fish’ is his nickname. It’s like when you look in an aquarium, a fish looks great from the side, but when he turns around he’s real narrow. That’s how this colt was. From the side, he’s got a beautiful body, but he was real narrow. And he turns out on his right front.
“I bought him because even though he had the conformation flaw, he walked through it. And he’s light and aerodynamic and had the look of a router. He’s not as narrow now as he was; he’s filled out some. But if he were real top heavy as a yearling, I probably wouldn’t have bought him.”
That same eye for a classic prospect was behind the purchase of Lookin at Lucky at 2.