x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Trainer gets lucky at Preakness with jockey swap

Lookin At Lucky wins by 3/4 of a length as Baffert pulls veteran jockey for 25-year-old Garcia and his fortunes change for the better.

Five years ago, Martin Garcia was working in a deli making sandwiches. He could not name even one of the Triple Crown races. But the 25-year-old jockey stole one of them on Saturday, giving Bob Baffert, the trainer, a Preakness victory with a trouble-free ride. Garcia beat Calvin Borel, the veteran who had predicted a Triple Crown sweep after his colt Super Saver won the Kentucky Derby in the muck.

Baffert made a gutsy call between the two races, opting to take Garrett Gomez off Lookin At Lucky, who was anything but in a series of mishaps in big races dating to last year. "Our luck had to change somehow the way the trips have been," Baffert said. The little-known jockey from Mexico proved to be up for the job aboard the bay colt in Baltimore in only his second Triple Crown race. Surprisingly, his toughest challenge did not come from Super Saver. The colt faded to eighth as the favourite in the 12-horse field. "When I asked him, he kind of just folded up. It happens," said Borel, who did not ride the rail this time his signature trip.

Lookin At Lucky won by three-quarters of a length over First Dude. Jackson Bend was another head back in third. The victory was Baffert's fifth at Pimlico, tying him with D Wayne Lukas for second. 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. When Baffert decided to dump Gomez for Garcia, he traded experience for enthusiasm. Before the race, Garcia kept thanking Baffert for the mount, and the trainer kept telling him to focus on the race.

"Even when I start riding, I don't even know what is Preakness, what is Kentucky, any race," Garcia said. "I just know that I need to go and ride a horse and win. * AP