Baffert’s Derby hopeful Lookin At Lucky featured in Juvenile
It’s crunch time for Garrett Gomez and Ron Anderson. One for the money, two for the show.
If they expect to capture their fourth consecutive national earnings crown, it will happen at Santa Anita this Friday and Saturday, when the Oak Tree Racing Association hosts the 26th Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
At press time, winning mounts ridden by Gomez had earned more than $14 million, leaving him just over $1 million behind leader Ramon Dominguez and some $600,000 behind runner-up Julien Leparoux. But just a few weeks ago, Gomez had trailed Dominguez by nearly $2 million.
With $25.5 million up for grabs in the Breeders’ Cup gold mine, Gomez could overtake Dominguez in a proverbial heartbeat.
"We’ve got some live horses and hopefully they’ll run good, and get us where we want to be," said Gomez, winner of the Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey the past two years.
Among his live horses is the undefeated 2-year-old colt Lookin At Lucky, the most promising of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s Kentucky Derby hopefuls, who runs in the $2 million Juvenile. Other mounts Anderson has lined up for Gomez include Always a Princess in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies; Ancient Title winner Gayego in the $2 million Sprint; and under-publicized Colonel John in the $5 million Classic.
"Lookin At Lucky is a very talented horse," said Gomez, who has ridden the son of Unbridled’s Song in each of his four victories. "He’s done everything right. He took his first route race in stride and did it the right way." That was in the mile and a sixteenth Norfolk Stakes on Oct. 4, but Gomez is well aware greater hurdles lurk in the Juvenile.
"Lookin At Lucky will have to step up more due to the simple fact that better horses will be showing up, and it’s going to be a tougher race than he’s run in before," said Gomez, who turns 38 on Jan. 1. "The best horses from all over the country are coming in."
Ditto for another Baffert trainee, Always a Princess, a promising second behind Blind Luck in the Oak Leaf Stakes at a mile and a sixteenth, her first race at two turns.
"She adapted well for the first time routing," Gomez said. "She did something she didn’t do the first time. She went to the front. It’s a good learning curve. In sprints, she broke slow and came from off the pace and did it well. In the Oak Leaf, she broke OK and we put her on the lead. Now we know she’s adaptable to pretty much any situation. Hopefully, she’ll move forward."
Gayego was remindful of last year’s Sprint winner, Midnight Lute, when he won the Ancient Title Stakes on Oct. 11. Formerly trained by Paulo Lobo but now with Saeed bin Suroor who trains for Godolphin Racing, Gayego made an impressive swooping move from well back to capture the Ancient Title. He will need a similar effort to overtake the lightning-fast Sprint favorite, Zensational, trained by Baffert.
"It’s the Breeders’ Cup, and with a full field, there usually is plenty of pace," Gomez said. "We’ll have to keep an eye on the fractions and make sure the leaders don’t get too far away."
With undefeated female champion Zenyatta and standout male 3-year-old Summer Bird in the Classic, Colonel John will offer good betting value, and he favors Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride.
Gomez, meanwhile, continues to be content playing Elvis to Anderson’s Colonel Parker.
"I stay out of the way," Gomez said. "I let Ron do his job and I go out there and try to do mine. I need a good partner (horse) all the time and I’ve been lucky enough the last four or five years to end up with a lot of good partners. It makes my job easy."
Riding in Southern California where Gomez makes his home also makes life more palatable. "It’s nice to be part of my kids’ lives," Gomez said. "I’ve got time to run to a soccer game or watch my daughter in an activity. Being home makes it easier for me to share in their lives, and that’s always good."
Las Vegas native Anderson focuses on the money, not total races won. "Garrett rides dozens fewer horses than Ramon and Leparoux, yet he’s not that far behind (in wins)," Anderson points out. "It’s the quality of races and the stakes we win that count.
"We’re in good shape for the Breeders’ Cup, even compared to last year, and I thought I could never, ever top last year. I think we have better chances than last year."
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Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Ed Golden