BALTIMORE — Less than 12 hours after Lookin At Lucky's Preakness Stakes victory, trainer Bob Baffert confirmed his colt would be rewarded with a well-deserved rest.
The morning after saddling the reigning juvenile champion to a three-quarter length victory, Baffert reiterated the stance he took earlier in the week by announcing he would not send Lookin At Lucky to the Belmont Stakes on June 5.
With Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver also skipping the 11/2-mile classic following his eighth-place Preakness finish, it will mark the first time since 2006 that neither winner of the first two legs of the Triple Crown goes to the Belmont.
That was the year Derby winner Barbaro broke down at the start of the Preakness and Bernardini won the middle jewel before skipping the Belmont.
Though Baffert said Lookin At Lucky bounced out of his Preakness win well, the Hall of Famer cited the colt's arduous campaign to this point and the fact he is a May foal as reasons behind the decision.
"It's a tough, long race and he's run hard," said Baffert, who shipped his fifth Preakness winner back to California on Sunday. "He's so young, he's still not even really three yet. I ran him hard as a two-year-old and I want to freshen him up a bit. I want to have something left for the fall.
"The Haskell (at Monmouth Park on Aug. 1) is one option. But I don't know yet (about his next start)."
Doing too much too soon is exactly what the connections of Super Saver think caught up to him Saturday.
A staunch believer in giving his horses ample time between starts, trainer Todd Pletcher said the two-week turnaround off the Derby win took a toll on his colt.
"It's not only the two weeks from the Derby to the Preakness, but it was also back in three weeks off the Arkansas Derby," Pletcher said on Sunday. "So he had two very good races close together. It probably wasn't enough time for him to improve and put forth another top race.
"But we are so happy about the way he ran in the Derby and so thankful about that, it would be hard to be disappointed about anything he ever does from this point on."
Pletcher had been considering starting Devil May Care in the Belmont, but the filly is now considered doubtful for the race.
No decision has been made on Super Saver's next start. Even after packing three hard races into five weeks, WinStar Farm racing manager Elliott Walden said the Derby winner was still displaying an impressive amount of energy on Sunday.
"I was concerned he was going to be really flat but he really wasn't," said Walden, who added that Drosselmeyer, second in the Dwyer Stakes last weekend, was slated to start for WinStar in the Belmont. "He scoped good and he had a nice bright look in his eye. I think he took care of himself."
Just because Lookin At Lucky is not headed to the Belmont Stakes does not mean Baffert will be without a starter in the race.
Baffert said he will likely send Lone Star Derby winner Game On Dude on to Long Island.
Martin Garcia is expected to be aboard Game On Dude in the Belmont. The 25-year-old phenom artfully guided Lookin At Lucky to his Preakness victory after replacing Eclipse Award-winning jockey Garrett Gomez on the colt.
Gomez rode Grade I winner Dublin to a fifth-place finish in the Preakness after the D. Wayne Lukas-trained colt broke sharply to his right coming out of post No. 12, nearly veering into one of the outriders along the rail.
"I felt bad for Garrett because Garrett is a good friend," Baffert said. "Wayne (Lukas) and I went to dinner and he said 'Boy, you must really be high on this kid (Garcia).' The thing about him is he is just a natural. He's a cagey little guy and he's a student of the game."
Along with Dublin, Preakness runner-up First Dude is the only other holdover from the race considered likely to head to Belmont.
First Dude was held tough in the stretch after setting quick fractions of :22.91 and :46.47 on the front end. Contrary to the belief the 11/2-mile distance favors closers, he has a style ideal to handling the Belmont Stakes.
"He did all the work up front and he still finished and they had to work to get by him," said Dale Romans, trainer of First Dude. "I think he's going to move forward again. The mile and a half suits him and we're excited to go up there."
After finishing second in the Derby with Ice Box and third in the Preakness with Jackson Bend, trainer Nick Zito could have the strongest hand for the Belmont.
Zito is also planning to start the late-running Ice Box and Dwyer Stakes winner Fly Down in the Belmont.
"I never say never, but I doubt it," Zito said of Jackson Bend's probability of running in all three Triple Crown events. "I think he needs a rest. But you never know with him."