Lucky beats bad draw to fortify US challenge at Breeders' Cup

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The Independent Online

However muddled the three-year-old middle-distance division is in these parts, at least in the States they now know who will be carrying the Stars and Stripes against the Europeans at Breeders' Cup time in November. Lookin At Lucky re-established himself as the clear leader of his generation as he put a field that included Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver to the sword in the Haskell Invitational.

The son of Smart Strike, trained by Bob Baffert, was last year's American two-year-old champion but until Sunday night, his second campaign had lacked authority. A scrambled victory in one Classic trial, a defeat in another and a sixth-place flop as favourite for the Churchill Downs showpiece were followed by the partial redemption of a narrow, all-out, victory in the Preakness Stakes.

But all is now forgiven and forgotten. Defying the disadvantage of an inside draw, Lookin At Lucky this time justified his position as 6-5 market leader, coming home four lengths clear of the rest, headed by upwardly mobile Trappe Shot, in the $1m [£630,000] contest. Preakness runner-up First Dude pipped Super Saver for the minor place.

But it was not only the substance of Lookin At Lucky's success that impressed, it was the style. Taken off the rail and away from potential trouble by rider Martin Garcia, the colt moved easily just off the pace before he and Super Saver came past the leaders as one into the home stretch.

But the clash of the Classic winners was fleeting; the hapless Super Saver had barely time to begin to eyeball his rival than Lookin At Lucky produced an effortless burst of acceleration. "He had been training very well," said Baffert, "and we'd just been waiting for this coming out party."

Baffert could not resist having a stir at one of the debates that divides horsemen's opinions in the States, the increasing prevalence there of synthetic, as opposed to dirt tracks. The only blip in Lookin At Lucky's two-year-old campaign came when he was second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on the Pro-Ride at Santa Anita, where he was beaten again before his Kentucky Derby effort, when he had a rough passage on ground made a sloppy morass by rain.

"When he gets on dirt he's a totally different horse," said Baffert. "He was just floating over it this time. When Martin pushed the button, the horse really took off. You can't make that move on synthetic, but on dirt it was the winning move and that's what I like to see – fast horses running on fast tracks."

Lookin At Lucky has the Travers Stakes at Saratoga this month pencilled in before he must test his mettle against older horses. This year's Breeders' Cup meeting is at Churchill Downs, where the non-turf races are on dirt.

Sunday's European heroine Goldikova, who cruised away with the Prix Rothschild as part of her build-up to a tilt at an unprecedented third Breeders' Cup Mile (on turf), was reported to have taken her Deauville exertions in her stride. "She is very well this morning," said her trainer Freddy Head.

The Australian sprinter Alverta, last seen when a length third to Starspangledbanner in the July Cup, is to remain at her temporary base in Newmarket for a late-season campaign, starting with the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville on Sunday.

Starpangledbanner has been installed as 9-4 favourite to defy a drop back to five furlongs in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York later this month. The ex-Australian star's current trainer Aidan O'Brien will today face the BHA disciplinary panel to answer three charges stemming from his refusal in May to allow vets at York to re-examine Cape Blanco, injured in the process of winning the Dante Stakes.

Turf Account

Sue Montgomery's Nap Miss Dutee (3.15 Chepstow)

Won with more than a little in hand on her first try in handicap company, enough to suggest that she can defy her penalty in similar company.

Next best Soie de Chine (5.55 Southwell)

Has shown promise in both her starts and today's further step up in trip may help the Selkirk filly continue her progress.

One to watch Old Hundred (J Fanshawe) lacks class of half-brothers George Washington and Grandera, but showed promise enough on his handicap debut last month.

Where the money's going Dandino and Arctic Cosmos, second and third in one of the best St Leger trials, the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood, continue to shorten in Ladbrokes' lists for next month's Doncaster Classic, the former now 7-1 from 8-1 and the latter 8-1 from 10s.

Chris McGrath's Nap Thinking (5.00 Catterick)