Thursday, October 01, 2009

Norfolk and Oak Leaf Stakes Advance

ARCADIA, Calif. (Oct. 1, 2009) – When California’s stellar juveniles compete in Oak Tree’s pair of Grade I stakes for 2-year-olds on Sunday, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s unbeaten Lookin At Lucky will be a solid favorite in the $300,000 Norfolk Stakes, but the $300,000 Oak Leaf, an event that has produced nine Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly champions, has become unusually unsettled with the recent injury to highly regarded Mi Sueno.

Lookin At Lucky, purchased in April by Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman for $475,000, will be seeking his fourth win, second Grade I and third graded stakes victory to take into Oak Tree’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 7. Garrett Gomez rides the son of Smart Strike who will be stretching out to a route for the first time in the mile-and-one-sixteenth Norfolk. He was even-money when taking the Grade I Del Mar Futurity while going seven furlongs on Sept. 7.

Lookin At Lucky drew post position No. 2 among 12 entrants in the competition that Baffert has won four out of the past 12 years. Baffert’s most recent Norfolk triumph came in 2004, with Roman Ruler. The Hall of Fame conditioner was second in the race last year with Midshipman, who went on to take the Gr. I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

The complete field for the Norfolk Stakes, with jockeys in post position order (all entrants carry 122 pounds): Sterling Opportunity, Tyler Baze; Lookin At Lucky, Garrett Gomez; Alfarabi, Alex Solis; Lucky Rave, Corey Nakatani; Gallant Gent, Martin Pedroza; Hurricane Ike, Joseph Talamo; Came Aboard, Aaron Gryder; Seattle Ruler, Martin Garcia; Jung Man Scott, Rafael Bejarano; Dave in Dixie, Joel Rosario; John Scott, Victor Espinoza, and Pulsion, Mike Smith.

The Oak Leaf turned topsy-turvy when Mi Sueno, California’s top-ranked juvenile filly, was injured while training last Tuesday at Hollywood Park. The winner of the Grade I Del Mar Debutante suffered a condylar fracture of her right cannon bone.

Blind Luck, who closed strongly for second in the seven-furlong Del Mar Debutante, will be a leading contender among 13 aspirants in the Grade I at 1 1/16 miles leading up to Oak Tree’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 6.

Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer for Mark DeDomenica and partners, Blind Luck broke her maiden by 13 ¼ lengths over 4 ½ furlongs at Calder Racecourse in June. Subsequently transferred to the Hollendorfer barn, the Pollard’s Vision filly won an allowance race at Del Mar by 3 ¼ lengths before missing by one-length in the Del Mar Debutante. Tyler Baze is the rider.

George and Lori Hall’s Bickersons, a Canadian-bred filly by Silver Deputy, ships in from her Monmouth Park base following a gritty third behind top-rated 2-year-old filly Hot Dixie Chick in Saratoga’s Grade I Spinaway Stakes on Sept. 6 after setting a torrid early pace in the seven-furlong competition. Joe Bravo, aboard for the Kelly Breen-trained filly’s maiden win at Monmouth, will fly to California to ride.

The complete field for the Oak Leaf Stakes, with jockeys in post position order (all entrants carry 122 pounds): Always a Princess, Gomez; Whispering Hush, Jose Valdivia Jr.; Repo, Espinoza; Forbidden Paradise, Bejarano; Blind Luck, Tyler Baze; Bickersons, Joe Bravo; Pure Class, Smith; Softly Singing, Rosario; Maralago, Pedroza; La Nez, Christian Santiago Reyes; It Tiz, Talamo; Kaloula, Solis, and Fairway Road, Alonso Quinonez.

Only three entrants in the Norfolk have raced around two turns previously. Jung Man Scott, an Eastern invader trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., ran second to Interactif in Saratoga’s Grade III With Anticipation Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on turf in his last start on Sept. 4. Rafael Bejarano has taken the riding call on the Winter Park Partners colt who broke his maiden by 8 ¼ lengths while sprinting over the grass at Saratoga.

Pulsion, who will be ridden by Hall of Famer Mike Smith for trainer Patrick Biancone, broke his maiden while traversing one mile at Del Mar on Sept. 5. Alfarabi did likewise in a turf event at Del Mar on Aug. 28 for trainer Eoin Harty. Alex Solis rides the Yes It’s True roan.

Lookin At Lucky will encounter another unbeaten juvenile in John Scott, trained by Carla Gaines for Scott Gross and Harris Farms. The California-bred son of Bertrando is 2-for-2 with a victory in the $100,000 I’m Smokin Stakes over six furlongs at Del Mar on Sept. 7. Victor Espinoza has the return riding engagement.

Trainer John Sadler will send out one of two Oak Leaf contestants to have raced around two turns. In her second start, Pure Class was an impressive maiden winner while winning a one-mile event by five lengths at Del Mar on Sept. 7. Smith will ride the Purge offspring owned by Desert Sun Stables and Joy Ride Racing.

Bejarano has the mount on Irish-bred Forbidden Paradise, who rallied to win her United States debut by a nose going one mile over turf at Del Mar on Aug. 27. Trained by David Hofmans for Mr. and Mrs. Marc C. Ferrell, Forbidden Paradise was a nose loser in her only previous start in England.

Baffert and Gomez will be looking for a stakes double on Sunday with Arnold Zetcher’s Always a Princess, a daughter of Leroidesanimaux who rallied smartly to win her only start while sprinting at Del Mar on Sept. 5.

In addition to Blind Luck, Hollendorfer will saddle Softly Singing, a 4 ¼-length maiden winner at odds of 3-10 while sprinting at Del Mar on Aug. 30. Rosario has the call aboard the Holy Bull roan who is co-owned by the veteran trainer.

The Norfolk is scheduled as the eighth race on a nine-race program with first post set for 12:30 p.m. The Oak Leaf goes as the sixth.

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