ARCADIA, Calif. -- Despite losing the Breeders' Cup Juvenile by a head, Lookin at Lucky has emerged as the top 2-year-old in North America and will be widely considered the winter favorite for the Kentucky Derby.
"The consolation was, man, I have a serious horse," trainer Bob Baffert said the morning after a wide trip and slow pace foiled the previously unbeaten colt.
Meanwhile, Godolphin-owned winner Vale of York was scheduled to leave Tuesday and winter in Dubai. His exit after one start in North America leaves Lookin at Lucky as the top U.S.-based Derby prospect and leading candidate for Eclipse Award as outstanding 2-year-old male.
Lookin at Lucky won his first four starts, including two Grade 1's - the Del Mar Futurity and Norfolk Stakes. But after breaking from post 13 in the Juvenile and falling more than eight lengths behind a slow 48.78-second half-mile, Lookin at Lucky fell short by a head.
"I didn't think he was going to hit the board when I saw those fractions," Baffert said. "What can you do? It was just unlucky."
The runner-up finish and five-start campaign will be reason for voters to consider Lookin at Lucky a legitimate Eclipse candidate.
And Baffert did not shut the door on 2009.
"I'm not ruling out anything," he said Sunday. "I'm going to see how he comes out of this race, wait two weeks, come back and breeze him, and see how he handles that."
Whether or not Lookin at Lucky runs Dec. 19 in the Grade 1, $750,000 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park, two colts he defeated in the Juvenile have made the Futurity their target.
Noble's Promise, the Kentucky shipper who was third by a half-length in the Juvenile, will remain in California and aim for the Futurity. His trainer, Ken McPeek, will keep a small string in California.
"Hollywood Park and Santa Anita have a great stakes program; we need to be a part of it," McPeek said Sunday.
Eskendereya, the Todd Pletcher-trained 2-year-old who was knocked around and steadied in a first-turn traffic jam before finishing ninth, also will stay for the Futurity. Pletcher said fifth-place finisher Aikenite would aim for a winter campaign in Florida.
McPeek juveniles will remain out West
McPeek and Pletcher arrived in California in fall aiming for the Breeders' Cup, and both outfits will keep a California presence in late fall and winter.
McPeek had two seconds and two thirds with five Breeders' Cup 2-year-olds, and all five runners will stay with assistant Jordan Blair to point for stakes at Hollywood. In addition to Noble's Promise, Bridgetown, second in the Juvenile Turf, will aim for the Grade 3 Generous Stakes Nov. 28; House of Grace, third in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, goes in the Grade 3 Miesque on Nov. 29.
Beautician, who lost a hind shoe finishing second in the Juvenile Fillies, will run in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 20. Connie and Michael, eighth in the Juvenile Fillies, is eligible for a first-level allowance.
McPeek-trained Teamgeist, sixth in the Grade 2 Las Palmas, will point for the Grade 2 Bayakoa on Dec. 5. Keeneland turf allowance winner My Baby Baby, 4, also will ship to California along with 3-year-old filly Best Lass. Moon Town, who earned a 102 Beyer winning a first-level allowance Oct. 29 at Keeneland, will aim for the Grade 1 Malibu on opening day of the Santa Anita winter meet.
McPeek has never kept a string in California.
"We will continue to develop our young horses in Kentucky, and point to the stakes program [in California] more than anything," he said.
Pletcher said that Juvenile Fillies Turf runner-up Rose Catherine would switch to Cushion Track and run Dec. 20 in the Hollywood Starlet.
"There is not a whole lot left to try, and the Miesque comes back a little quick, so we'll give her a chance in the Starlet," Pletcher said.
Coolmore may start using more Lasix
Coolmore will reconsider its policy of racing without Lasix at the Breeders' Cup after Man of Iron, the only one of seven of Aidan O'Brien's Cup horses to run with the diuretic, proved to be his only winner at Santa Anita this weekend. O'Brien-trained favorites Mastercraftsman in the Dirt Mile and Lillie Langtry in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, as well as Classic second choice Rip Van Winkle, all performed well below expectations while running without Lasix.
Man of Iron's victory in the Marathon broke a 28-race Breeders' Cup losing streak for Coolmore. The half-brother to Belmont Stakes winners Jazil and Rags to Riches was Coolmore's first win in the Cup since High Chaparral dead-heated with Johar in the Turf at Santa Anita in 2003.
Conduit will stand in Japan
Conduit, who successfully defended his title in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Turf, will stand at stud at Big Red Farm in Hokkaido, Japan, when his racing career ends.
The deal was finalized last month, according to Miki Tsuge, who served as a liaison between Conduit's current owners, Ballymacoll Stud of Britain, and Okada Shigeyuki of Big Red Farm. The stallion career is likely to begin in 2010, Tsuge said.
Conduit could race one more time this year, in the Japan Cup on Nov. 29 or an international race in Hong Kong on Dec. 13.
"It's all in the hands of the trainer and current owner," Tsuge said.
Shigeyuki, who attended the BC Turf, is one of Japan's leading breeders.
Conduit, 4, won the BC Turf after a hard-fought battle with pacesetter Presious Passion, prevailing by a half-length. Trained by Michael Stoute, Conduit has won 7 of 14 starts and $5,378,357.
Earlier this year, he won the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot and was fourth in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Aside from the 2008 BC Turf, Conduit won the Group 1 St. Leger Stakes in England last year.
Informed Decision will race next year
Informed Decision, winner of the Filly and Mare Sprint, will remain in training next season for trainer Jonathan Sheppard. The 11-for-14 filly is likely to return in spring at Keeneland.
Ventura, runner-up in the Filly and Mare Sprint, who will be retired and bred next spring, could make one final start, according to Juddmonte racing manager Garrett O'Rourke.
"Ventura will definitely be bred next year," he said, "Whether or not she runs in the Matriarch first will be decided in the next couple of days."
Free Flying Soul and Silver Swallow, the third- and sixth-place finishers in the Filly and Mare Sprint, will remain in training in 2010, according to trainer Bruce Headley.
- additional reporting by Steve Andersen and Alan Shuback