Baffert’s gamble on jockey switch pays off

By Steve Ginsburg

BALTIMORE (BestGrowthStock) – Trainer Bob Baffert’s gamble to replace veteran jockey Garrett Gomez with relative newcomer Martin Garcia paid off when Lookin At Lucky won the Preakness Stakes Saturday with a dramatic stretch drive.

After a rough run during a third-place finish at the Santa Anita Derby, and an even tougher ride while placing sixth in the Kentucky Derby, Baffert said it was time to make a move.

“I wanted to win it for the horse, because he tries so hard every time,” the 57-year-old Baffert said after his fifth trek to the Preakness winner’s circle.

“The Derby, he had that rough trip. Santa Anita Derby, rough trip. I didn’t want him to get hit. But, you know, every time he had those rough trips, he came back.

“He’s got a great mind. He’s a cool horse. He’s just a really great athlete. He’s one of the best horses I’ve ever had. It’s amazing.”

Lookin At Lucky drew the dreaded number one post in the 20-horse Derby two weeks ago and the Kentucky-bred bay was never in contention. The colt was steadied three times in the slop at Churchill Downs.

Baffert admitted he switched riders to change the “mojo.”

That change paid instant dividends when Lookin At Lucky drew the seven post, an ideal slot for the 12-horse Preakness.

“Maybe (Garcia) brought us some luck with the draw,” said Baffert. “The draw was so important. The seven hole, Garrett probably would have won on him today.”

Garcia guided Lookin At Lucky to a flawless ride, grabbing the lead in the stretch and outsprinting First Dude to the finish line by three-quarters of a length.

Lookin At Lucky won five of six starts last year but reached the winner’s circle only once in three starts in 2010 before the Preakness.

Co-owner Paul Weitmann admitted the colt’s run of bad posts, sloppy weather, and rough rides was “discouraging.”

“It was time for some luck,” he said. “We had it. We had the good draw. Bobby had the horse ready. Martin did a wonderful job of riding.

“It happened today. I thought he was capable of it all along, but somewhere along the line in sports, you can’t keep using excuses; you have to win. It was our time.”

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(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Baffert’s gamble on jockey switch pays off