This Saturday, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will send Lookin At Lucky, the 4-5 morning line favorite, to the starting gate for the 73rd running of the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (G1). But in a recent Daily Racing Form news story, Baffert seemed to downplay the importance of Lookin At Lucky’s favored status.
“It’s not a do-or-die race for me,” said Baffert. “If I can keep him fit and healthy, he can carry me the rest of the way [to the Kentucky Derby].”
The Silver Fox has been in this spot before.
Baffert has won the Santa Anita Derby a record five times and three of those horses – Pioneerof The Nile, Point Given and Indian Charlie - were the betting favorite at post time.
None of Baffert’s five previous Santa Anita Derby winners went on to win the Kentucky Derby. However, several were favored in the Kentucky Derby: Pioneerof The Nile finished second in the 2009 Kentucky Derby; Point Given finished fifth in 2001; co-favored General Challenge finished in 11th place in 1999 and Indian Charlie finished third in 1998. Cavonnier, the 5-1 Kentucky Derby betting choice, finished second in 1996.
Although Baffert has never won the Kentucky Derby with a Santa Anita Derby winner, he did win the Kentucky Derby with Silver Charm who finished second in the 1997 Santa Anita Derby and Real Quiet who also finished second in the 1998 Santa Anita Derby.
So, we’ll see what happens Saturday.
Baffert definitely knows how to get his horses ready for the big race and I’m sure he is hoping that Lookin At Lucky gets an easy trip in the Santa Anita Derby. But at 4-5 odds, I’ll be looking for a couple of long shots for a small win, place wager and use them with Lookin At Lucky in the exotics.
That lands me on Skipshot (15-1) and Setsuko (20-1) who I believe have a decent chance to finish in the money or, with some luck, eek out a win.
Since transferring to the stable of trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, Skipshot has won three in row and he looks to be improving at the right time of year. Skipshot makes a big jump in class but his Brisnet Speed Figures make him more than competitive and a bullet work out March 28 indicates that he may be ready to run a good race.
With Skip Away as his sire and Sunny’s Halo as the damsire, the stretch out to 9-furlongs should not be a problem and I look for Skipshot to be competitive.
Richard Mandella also knows how to get his horses ready, too, and when Setsuko enters the gate he’s always ready to run. Setsuko comes into the Derby with a third-place finish in the Sham Stakes (G3) and he’s only missed hitting the board once in his seven previous starts. Setsuko has been working out better than he ever has and two back-to-back bullet work outs indicates that Setsuko may be ready to run a good race.