Del Mar numbers down through first two weeks

Del Mar, a little more than a quarter through its 71st summer meeting, is showing declines in on-track attendance, on-track handle and overall handle through the first 10 days compared to 2009.

Attendance is down 1.4 percent despite a record opening-day crowd of 45,000-plus — the largest at a California track this year. On-track handle and all-sources handle is showing a 10.8 percent decline.

There have been five fewer races run the first two weeks this season compared to the first 10 days of 2009.

Del Mar, which suffered four main track fatalities during opening week last summer, had avoided any this year until Saturday’s 10th race when Beach Bottom Bay, a $25,000 maiden claimer trained by Donald Warren, broke down midway on the turn for home during the 6 1/2-furlong race on Polytrack, was pulled up at the head of the stretch by jockey Christian Santiago Reyes and had to be euthanized.

Lookin At Lucky toys with Haskell foes

If ever there was a doubt about who the top 3-year-old in the land is, Lookin At Lucky erased all the drama concerning that debate Sunday when he cruised to a four-length victory over Trappe Shot in the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.

Sent postward as the 6-5 favorite, jockey Martin Garcia broke from the No. 1 post with Lookin At Lucky, got him to the outside early on while sitting fourth, and then moved up alongside Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver turning for home.

At that point, it looked like the Haskell was going to turn out to be a duel through the stretch between the Derby winner and Lookin At Lucky, who won the Preakness. But Lookin At Lucky, given an expert ride by Garcia, turned on the afterburners through the lane and spurted away from his six rivals for his eighth victory in 11 lifetime starts.

The Smart Strike colt ran the 1 1/8 miles on the main track in 1:49.83.

Lookin At Lucky had not been out since his Preakness score because trainer Bob Baffert decided to skip the Belmont in favor of keeping him fresh for the summer 3-year-old series and the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs.

The move turned out to be exactly the right one as Baffert, who won his fourth Haskell, now has an improving horse that can go in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 28 and perhaps one other race before the Classic.

The victory was Lookin At Lucky’s fifth Grade 1 victory. He also won the Del Mar Futurity, Norfolk Stakes and CashCall Futurity as a 2-year-old and the Preakness in May as a 3-year-old. He had a valid excuse in all three of his defeats and has been off the board only once in his 11 lifetime starts.

This guy is a major player as the season moves forward. He’s by far the leading contender for 3-year-old male of the year and catapulted himself into Horse of the Year contention by beating an impressive Haskell field that included Super Saver, First Dude, Ice Box and Trappe Shot.

All the talk has been about Quality Road, Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra this year, but you’d better take a look at Lookin At Lucky, who Baffert hopes to race as a 4-year-old and just might be developing into one of the top three horses in the country.