Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa's Itsmyluckyday collared two-year-old champion Shanghai Bobby in the stretch run of Saturday's Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes and went on to a convincing two-length victory, establishing himself as a serious prospect for this year's Kentucky Derby while smashing the track record at Gulfstream Park. The emerging three-year-old colt completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:41 4/5 with jockey Elvis Trujillo, bettering the old mark of 1:42 1/5 for the re-configured nine-furlong oval.
"Words can't describe it. It's something everybody should feel. Anybody in this game deserves to have this feeling," jubilant trainer Ed Plesa Jr. said. "I wish them all to have this feeling sometime...just not today."
Itsmyluckyday did not have a graded stakes win beforehand and was unplaced in both starts in November and December, but the dark bay son of Lawyer Ron entered the Holy Bull on the upswing, posting a 6 3/4-length runaway victory in the listed Gulfstream Park Derby on January 1. He proved that performance was no fluke on Saturday.
Shanghai Bobby, who brought a perfect five-for-five mark into the Holy Bull, showed speed as expected from his rail post and the even-money favorite led the way into the first turn while being chased by longshot Clearly Now. Itsmyluckyday broke well and settled just behind the top pair in third, a length back after an opening quarter-mile in :23 1/5. The top three continued along the same order down the backstretch as the half-mile was recorded in :46 3/5.
Shanghai Bobby continued to lead the way determinedly through the far turn, but Itsmyluckyday began to inch forward on the bend and was only a half-length back in second after three-quarters of a mile in 1:10 3/5. He advanced to challenge after entering the straightaway, reaching equal terms with a quarter-mile remaining, and easily got the better of his rival in the final furlong, drawing away nicely under the wire.
Itsmyluckyday earned 10 points under the new "Road to the Kentucky Derby" scoring system.
Trujillo was riding Itsmyluckyday for the first time after previous jockey Paco Lopez honored a commitment to ride fifth-placer Bern Identity.
"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,'" said Plesa, a longtime South Florida-based conditioner. "I just wanted the best horse to win the race; I believe that's what happened today. I didn't see anybody that had any big excuses as far as wide trips. That's what I wanted for our horse; I wanted a fair chance to win the race."
"I'm very thankful for Mr. Plesa, who gave me the opportunity to ride Itsmyluckyday,” Trujillo added. "This was the trip Mr. Plesa and I hoped for."
Sent off the 7-2 third choice among 10 runners, Itsmyluckyday returned $11.40, $4.40 and $3.80 to his supporters.
Shanghai Bobby sustained his first loss but was hardly humbled, finishing 11 1/2 lengths clear of third.
"The winner was very good today. We were second best," trainer Todd Pletcher said of the runner-up. "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 got the trip we anticipated."
"He ran well. He was relaxed on the lead and went right to the front today," said Rosie Napravnik, who has been aboard Shanghai Bobby in all his starts. "When the other horse came to him, he tried really hard."
Clearly Now managed to save the third spot at 42-1, and it was another half-length back to the 132-1 outsider Joshua's Comprise in fourth. Next came Bern Identity, Frac Daddy, Dewey Square, Sr. Quisqueyano, Tulira Castle and Fredericksburg.
With the $240,000 payday, Itsmyluckyday mare than doubled his career earnings to $425,600 from a 9-5-1-1 career line. Plesa was asked what's next for the Kentucky Derby contender.
"We'll see how he comes out of the race, but I'd lean toward the Florida Derby (on March 30)," Plesa said of the Gulfstream's $1 million showcase. "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."
Bred in Kentucky by Liberation Farm and Brandywine Farm, Itsmyluckyday broke his maiden in his second start at Monmouth Park last June. He followed that with a close third in the grassy Tyro and then captured the off-the-turf Fasig-Tipton Turf Dash. Following a three-length tally in the September 15 Foolish Pleasure at Calder, the colt recorded a sixth in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot and a fourth in the Dania Beach, the latter coming over Gulfstream's turf on December 15. The Gulfstream Park Derby served as a breakout performance and Itsmyluckyday continued to show more in the Holy Bull.
"Everybody's excited because of the Kentucky Derby. It's hard not to get wrapped up in that," Plesa noted.
Out of the stakes-placed Doneraile Court mare Viva La Slew, Itsmyluckyday initially brought $47,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale before selling to his current connections for $110,000 at the 2012 OBS March two-year-old sale. He hails from the same female family of Vicar, who captured the Grade 1 Florida Derby and Grade 1 Fountain of Youth in 1999.