BALTIMORE (AP) — Change in jockeys, change in fortune.
So it was for trainer Bob Baffert and his Preakness-winning colt Lookin At Lucky, who stayed out of trouble with Martin Garcia aboard and held off First Dude to win by three quarters of a length Saturday.
Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver faded to eighth as the 9-5 favorite in the 12-horse field, squandering a perfect trip and foiling jockey Calvin Borel’s boast of a Triple Crown.
“When I asked him, he kind of just folded up. It happens,” said Borel, who didn’t ride the rail this time — his signature trip.
Jackson Bend was another head back in third.
Lookin At Lucky ran 1 3-16 miles in 1:55.47, giving Baffert his fifth Preakness victory, tying him with D. Wayne Lukas for second all-time. It was the Hall of Famer’s first Triple Crown win since 2002, when War Emblem won at Pimlico.
“When they turned for home, he can really finish,” Baffert said. “When I saw those red colors making that cruise, I thought, ‘Oh boy, he’s running today.'”
Lucky’s win means yet another year will pass without a Triple Crown champion. Affirmed was the last to sweep the Derby, Preakness and Belmont in 1978.
Lookin At Lucky paid $6.80, $4.60 and $3.80 as the 2-1 second choice. First Dude returned $16.60 and $9.20, while Jackson Bend paid $6.60 to show.
Yawanna Twist was fourth, followed by Dublin, Paddy O’Prado and Caracortado. Then came Super Saver, Schoolyard Dreams, Aikenite, Pleasant Prince and Northern Giant.
Baffert made a gutsy decision when he replaced Garrett Gomez with Garcia after Lookin At Lucky finished sixth on a sloppy track as the Derby favorite two weeks ago.
At Churchill Downs, the bay colt was compromised by his starting position on the rail. He was immediately checked hard along the fence under Gomez, who rode Lookin At Lucky in his first nine races, including a troubled trip as the beaten favorite in the Santa Anita Derby.
“Our luck had to change somehow the way the trips have been,” Baffert said.
Things started to look up Wednesday when Lucky drew the No. 7 post, with Super Saver immediately to his outside.
“The draw was so important,” Baffert said. “I kept seeing seven all day. We went to have breakfast and the number to get my food was seven.”
Garcia kept Lookin At Lucky clear and out of trouble while running mid-pack down the backstretch, behind pacesetting First Dude. He made a big move on the final turn to challenge the surprisingly stubborn First Dude, a 23-1 long shot.
Racing on a dry track under sunny skies, Lookin At Lucky finally took charge in deep stretch.
Gomez was aboard Lukas’ Dublin, who broke poorly from the 12th post and was not a factor.
Garcia came to the United States in 2003, working at a deli in the San Francisco Bay area. The owner introduced him to a former jockey, who got him a job as an exercise rider even though he had no experience.
Two years later he became a jockey, but continued cook two days a week at the deli in a show of gratitude. He moved to Southern California a year later and found success on the ultra competitive circuit.
His most important new connection was Baffert.
“He came out here today and he was so cool and calm,” the trainer said. “He rode a perfect race. Martin can get a horse to settle really well, and I could see he had the horse in a nice rhythm.”
The race looked good for Super Saver, too, in the early stages.
Though Borel was unable to get him to the rail — the jockey’s favorite spot — he did put the bay colt in perfect striking position behind First Dude.
Turning for home, Super Saver came up empty.
“He run so hard in the Derby,” Borel said. “He’s not a big horse.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher blamed the short, two-week Derby turnaround for the horse’s poor showing.
“He tried hard. It was a little quick for him,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade the Derby for anything. We got the one we wanted the most.”