HOLY BULL STAKES | PURSE: $400,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 3 | 1 1/16 MILES
Itsmyluckyday defeated champion Shanghai Bobby and set a track record at Gulfstream Park in the process when he won the $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes Jan. 26.
The 3-year-old Lawyer Ron colt drew clear by two lengths under jockey Elvis Trujillo in a final time of 1:41.81 for 1 1/16 miles, a record for the rarely-used distance at the South Florida oval. He came off an impressive performance in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Derby, which he won by 6 3/4 lengths on Jan. 1.
The win earned Itsmyluckyday his first 10 points on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands to rank fifth in the standings. Shanghai Bobby, undefeated in five starts in 2011 for trainer Todd Pletcher including a Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile win and victory in the Foxwoods Champagne Stakes, earned four points for his runner-up finish and is now tied with Goldencents in the lead with 24 points. He has the most earnings of any 3-year-old on the Derby trail with $1,731,000.
"I told Elvis,'If you're seven-wide on the first turn and four-wide heading for home, you're not going to win the race,'" trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. recalled. "I just wanted the best horse to win the race; I believe that's what happened today.
"When we got to about the five-eighths pole, the half-mile pole, I felt real good, because I know he has a good kick. He couldn't have been training any better or doing any better, so I was pretty confident that we were going to be right there."
Jockey Rosie Napravnik settled Shanghai Bobby on the lead from post 1 after breaking alertly as the even-money favorite in the field of 10 sophomores. The son of Harlan's Holiday showed the way through decent early fractions of :23.34 and :46.68 while under pressure from 42-1 shot Clearly Now. Itsmyluckyday kept pace in third on the outside under Trujillo, and maintained his position approaching the stretch.
Shanghai Bobby still had the lead after three-quarters in 1:10.69 and had a head advantage as the field turned for home, but Itsmyluckyday was poised to strike after reeling in Clearly Now. He matched his inside rival stride for stride coming down to the wire and rolled clear in the final furlong to post the victory, fastest edition of the Holy Bull since Go For Gin's win in 1994.
Said Napravnik of Shanghai Bobby, "He ran very well. He was relaxed on the lead and went right to the front today. When the other horse came to him, he tried really hard."
Shanghai Bobby galloped out strongly and earned no harsh criticism from Pletcher, who said he was pleased with the colt's 3-year-old debut.
"The winner was very good today, we were second best," the trainer remarked. "We got a good trip and didn't expect to break the track record by three-fifths of a second in order to win. I was happy. We got the trip we anticipated."
Second choice Itsmyluckyday returned $11.40, $4.40, and $3.80 while Shanghai Bobby paid $3 and $2.80 with Clearly Now bringing $11.40. Joshua's Comprise, Bern Identity, Frac Daddy, Dewey Square, Sr. Quisqueyano, Tulira Castle, and Fredericksburg completed the order of finish.
Trainer Dale Romans said 8-1 shot Dewey Square did not handle dirt hitting him in the face while stalking the pace, and trainer Ken McPeek tweeted that third choice "Frac Daddy grabbed a quarter and was really green. Needs blinkers and maturity. We learned something today."
Trainer Kelly Breen also relayed his disappointment for Bern Identity, who was bumped repeatedly when Sr. Quisqueyano broke in at the start.
"It's disappointing; we put in a lot of hard work coming into this race and then it turns out it was all for naught because of the trouble right out of the gate," Breen remarked. "We'll just go back to the drawing board and regroup."
The second straight victory in 2013 for Itsmyluckyday improved his career earnings to $425,600, with a 5-1-1 record from nine starts.
"We'll see how he comes out of the race, but I'd lean toward the Florida Derby [March 30]," Plesa said of future plans for his colt. "But he's going to tell me what he wants to do. Then I'll sit down with our partners and we'll discuss it Everybody's excited because of the Kentucky Derby, [and] it's hard not to get wrapped up in that."
Itsmyluckyday, who races for Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa, was bred in Kentucky by Liberation Farm & Brandywine Farm out of the Doneraile Court mare Viva La Slew. He was a $110,000 purchase from the 2012 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s select sale of 2-year-olds in training last March when consigned by Eisaman Equine, and was pinhooked for $47,000 by Nick Hines, agent, when consigned by Brandywine Farm to the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale.