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Lookin at Lucky (2007 b by Smart Strike x Private Feeling, by Belong to Me)

Ashford $35,000

One of the big three stallion prospects for 2011, all standing for $35,000 live foal, Lookin at Lucky is an obvious stallion prospect from every aspect of racing performance.

He has early maturity and was champion of his age at 2 and 3, he carried his speed a distance and won the classic Preakness Stakes at a mile and three-sixteenths, and he had the mental and physical toughness to stand at the top of his class throughout his career and retire sound.

Those are serious qualifications to be a stallion of consequence.

Physically, he has size, standing right at 16.2 hands, and the bay son of Smart Strike has the strong body, deep shoulder, well-shaped proportions, and quality that one would expect from a racehorse of his stature.

From the knees up, Lookin at Lucky is an outstanding animal by every measurement and proof of ability. But looking at his legs from the knees down, I am highly impressed by trainer Bob Baffert’s nerve and by the finesse of his training program for this horse.

Because Lookin at Lucky ain’t perfect.

In terms of what a sales agent or a textbook on conformation would tell us, Lookin at Lucky shouldn’t have had much of a chance as a racehorse. His pasterns are too long, too sloping, and his feet turn out, and you get the idea.

This is important for two reasons.

First, the textbook was wrong. This horse could run. He could run like a scalded dog. Now, I could bore you half to death with some thoughts on his proportions and exceptional balance and how these made his action more efficient. But the gist is that he could run. And yet, when standing up as a pudgy young athlete with a couple of vet citations on his record in the repository at the yearling sales, you couldn’t have given him away. The breeders had to buy him back for $35,000.

But when put into training and seen on the racetrack at the Keeneland April sale of 2yos in training, Lookin at Lucky made believers of plenty, selling for $475,000, and Baffert had the buyers to back his judgment and get the glory (and the gold). The horse won nine of 13 races and earned $3,307,278. Then owners Mike Pegram and partners sold Lookin at Lucky as a stallion prospect.

The second point about Lookin at Lucky’s conformation is less positive. Breeders have to race their foals by Lookin at Lucky or sell them. It’s that simple, and what can they imagine buyers are going to say if he produces foals that have his feet and legs? Even if they look exactly like Lookin at Lucky, what are they going to bring?

This is the poisonous conundrum of breeding and racing. With only a handful of exceptions, breeders have to sell at least some of their stock, and the marketplace has some very unusual ideas of what is good and bad, what is worth paying a bit for and what is not.

As Lookin at Lucky and hundreds of other horses prove every year, the best is what runs fastest.