Let's go to the videotape: One Lucky Dane
The visual evidence is especially helpful when evaluating lightly raced prospects on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail, for you can get a better sense of the horse as an individual, and not a number on the page. Sometimes you can watch the youngster's progress unfold, step by step, from race to race.
A case in point is One Lucky Dane, one of Hall of Famer Bob Baffert's battalion of Derby hopefuls. While he's lower on the depth chart than unbeaten Dortmund and champion American Pharoah, the colt from the first crop of Lookin at Lucky was a steady improver in his first three outings. His advance was halted by a sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), but that could be only a temporary blip for a very promising type.
One Lucky Dane made his debut in what turned out to be an incredibly deep maiden -- Del Mar's 4TH race on August 9, 2014. Won in runaway fashion by Om (who hasn't been seen since), the 6 1/2-furlong dash featured American Pharoah, only fifth as the 7-5 favorite, as well as Calculator, who went on to chase American Pharoah in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and FrontRunner (G1) before romping in the Sham S. (G3).
Sent off at 11-1, One Lucky Dane didn't have the early speed to mix it up with Om or American Pharoah, and settled a few lengths behind the fast pace of :22 2/5 and :45. He lost position turning for home, where he was caught behind a fading rival, and looked a bit green to boot. Jockey Rafael Bejarano maneuvered him through a seam on the inside, and One Lucky Dane finished with interest. Under considerate handling, he did his best work late and edged Calculator for third. (Click here for the chart).
That pleasing introduction had "two-turn horse" written all over it, and One Lucky Dane duly stretched out to a mile for his second start, the 10TH race at Del Mar August 30. Now bet down to 3-2 favoritism beneath a returning Bejarano, One Lucky Dane hustled from his outside post 10 to vie with Conquest Hiosilver through fractions of :23, :47 and 1:12 2/5. Our case study appeared to be traveling the better of the pair as he struck the front swinging into the stretch. But instead of pulling away, One Lucky Dane began to tread water, and the rail-skimming Conquest Hiosilver came back to prevail by a half-length. (Click here for the chart).
Although he lost, One Lucky Dane performed quite well, especially considering the ground loss. According to Trakus, One Lucky Dane covered 43 feet more than Conquest Hiosilver, much more than his narrow margin of defeat. If the post positions had been reversed, One Lucky Dane probably would have won.
The third time proved the proverbial charm for One Lucky Dane, who drew the rail for a one-mile maiden, the 6TH race, at Santa Anita October 4. An even stronger favorite at 3-5, One Lucky Dane was again asked by Bejarano early, and he used his advantageous post to secure the lead through a :22 3/5 opening quarter. Prospect Park, who veered out on the clubhouse turn, then raced up on the backstretch to head One Lucky Dane between calls.
But the favorite readily regained the advantage at the half in :46 1/5, and he began to draw off through six furlongs in 1:10 3/5. One Lucky Dane widened his advantage down the stretch, the straightaway really catering to his powerful, piston-like action. He crossed the wire 9 1/2 lengths clear in a time of 1:35 1/5, good for a career-best 94 BRIS Speed and 97 Late Pace rating. (Click here for the chart and video).
At this point, One Lucky Dane has the profile of a high-cruising galloper who can go a long way -- if he can find his comfortable rhythm early. He never got that chance in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, which did not set up at all for a horse of his type. Fanned out wide from post 9 when chasing the frenetic :22 1/5 opening quarter, Bejarano sensibly eased him back off the pace, but the colt was already out of his element. One Lucky Dane passed a couple of rivals en route to finishing sixth.
A big and scopey type, One Lucky Dane figures to excel with maturity. He recently returned to the worktab at Santa Anita, recording half-mile moves on February 10 and 16, and we'll be hearing more from him.
One Lucky Dane photo courtesy of Benoit via Santa Anita twitter.