Baffert looking for and finding hope in Preakness Stakes

Published 12:59 am Friday, May 14, 2010

BALTIMORE — Bob Baffert is looking for good omens anywhere he can.

So it wasn’t lost on the Hall of Fame trainer that he won two races at Hollywood Park the other day from the No. 7 hole. That’s the same spot in the starting gate Lookin At Lucky drew for Saturday’s Preakness.

Baffert hopes things may be looking up for the colt who’s had anything but luck in his last three races, including a sixth-place finish as the beaten favorite in the Kentucky Derby. Nearly two weeks ago, Lookin At Lucky drew the No. 1 post and got shuffled back coming out of the gate in the 20-horse field.

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An improved post position isn’t the only thing different for Lookin At Lucky in the Preakness, where he’s the 3-1 second choice behind Derby winner Super Saver in the 12-horse field. He’s getting a new rider, too, in Martin Garcia.

Baffert parted company with veteran Garrett Gomez in favor of Garcia, a 25-year-old from Mexico who has been riding since 2005. He’s only exercised the colt in the morning and will be riding him in a race for the first time.

“Everywhere I send him, he wins for me,” Baffert said Thursday. “He’s a kid who’s progressed quickly. He’s got raw talent.”

The idea of changing riders came up in a conversation between Baffert and Mike Pegram, his longtime buddy who co-owns Lookin At Lucky, last year’s 2-year-old champion.

“He was like, ’We need to change our luck,”’ Baffert said, leaning back on a white fence outside the stakes barn at Pimlico. “Our mojo wasn’t working.”

Gomez has ridden Lookin At Lucky in all nine of his starts, and Baffert said the parting was amicable.

On Saturday, Gomez will be aboard 10-1 shot Dublin, trying to win a sixth Preakness for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Dublin was seventh under Terry Thompson in the Derby.

“I talked to Garrett and said, ’You guys find another horse. If I do decide to run, I may make a switch to change my luck,”’ said Baffert, who waited a week after the Derby to announce Lookin At Lucky would try the Preakness. “Sometimes a horse and rider just aren’t in sync. If I’m going to come here, I want to do something different.”