LOUISVILLE — Bob Baffert claimed he wasn't aware of the hallowed ground Lookin At Lucky is threatening to tread upon.
Not since the legendary Spectacular Bid in 1979 has the Eclipse Award winner for champion 2-year-old male come back to take the 3-year-old divisional title.
Barring a series of unlikely events in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic this Saturday, Lookin At Lucky is poised to become the first horse in 31 years to claim that honor. The reigning juvenile champion has established himself as the clear leader of this year's sophomore class.
"Really?" Baffert said when told of the statistic Wednesday morning. "Maybe I ought to just scratch him now."
And while he may not have known about the feat his stable's star is trying to accomplish, Baffert doesn't need any historic marker to tell him what kind of a special animal the son of Smart Strike has developed into.
Were it not for some horrendous race luck and a couple of unfortunate post-position draws, Preakness Stakes winner Lookin At Lucky might have joined undefeated Zenyatta in heading into the 11/4-mile Classic with streaks of perfection.
During last year's defeat by a head in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, it was the outside post 13 that proved his biggest hurdle. After having to check severely during a third-place run in the Santa Anita Derby, the bay colt then got T-boned into the fence after breaking from the rail in the Kentucky Derby, but still put in a game effort to finish sixth.
The good news for Lookin At Lucky is, aside from those three losses, his 12-race career has been filled with efforts befitting his champion status.
Included in his nine career wins are five Grade I triumphs. Three of those came over synthetic surfaces in California last year with the other two being his Preakness Stakes victory and a smashing score in the Grade I Haskell Invitational on Aug. 1.
"He's always been a really good horse from Day One," said Baffert, who trains Lucky for longtime clients Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman. "I think the synthetics really takes away their brilliance, that's why no one really jumped on his bandwagon until late. He could easily be undefeated. It's just bad racing luck that got him beat.
"He likes to win, he loves to compete. He's like Zenyatta in a way. He just shows me something different every time."
His three-quarter-length win in the Preakness may have been Lookin At Lucky's moment of redemption following the Derby disappointment. But it is his two most recent outings that have shown what makes him a top candidate to become the 10th 3-year-old runner to win the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Known more for his workmanlike ability, Lookin At Lucky demonstrated the brilliance Baffert speaks of when he drew off in the stretch of the Haskell for a 4-length win.
After being briefly sidelined with an illness after the Haskell, Lookin At Lucky resurfaced in the Grade II Indiana Derby Oct. 2. He dropped toward the back under jockey Martin Garcia, but he still rallied over a sloppy track, typically hard to close over, for a 11/4-length win.
"When he was way back I thought, 'Oh no, why did I bring him,' " Baffert said of the Indiana Derby. "All of a sudden he goes wide and ... the minute he got by, he threw his ears up, and he came back like it was nothing for him.
"He has a really good kick. So far, that kick has been catching the horses he's been running against."
The Lookin At Lucky on the Churchill backstretch is a larger, more filled-out version of the one that was beneath the Twin Spires on the first Saturday in May.
Though he will have to break from post No. 12 on Saturday, Baffert would rather his colt lost a little ground than get stuck behind horses.
"All I ask is when he turns for home, he's right in the spot so we can find out what kind of horse he is," Baffert said. "We're asking for the chance to see if we're right about this horse."