Luck had nothing to do with Itsmyluckyday’s victory in Saturday’s $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
The 3-year-old son of the late Lawyer Ron earned his two-length decision over previously undefeated and 2-year-old champion Shanghai Bobby fair and square.
A week after being honored as the Thoroughbred sport’s champion 2-year-old of 2012, Shanghai Bobby was the even-money favorite to win his sixth straight race in the Grade 3 stakes for Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby hopefuls. The Todd Pletcher-trained champion seemed to be well positioned in the No. 1 post to make a victorious 3-year-old debut in the 1 1/16-mile stakes, but the Eddie Plesa Jr.-trained Itsmyluckday unleashed an impressive performance that broke the favorite’s undefeated streak, as well as a Gulfstream track record.
“Words can’t describe it. It’s something everybody should feel. Anybody in this game deserves to have this feeling. I wish them all to have this feeling sometime….just not today,” said Plesa, a longtime South Florida-based trainer following his fourth stakes victory of the 2012-2013 meeting.
Itsmyluckyday, the 9-2 third choice who captured the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year’s Day, ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.81 to eclipse Endorsement’s 2012 record of 1:42.35.
“The winner was very good today. We were second best. We got a good trip and didn’t expect to break the track record by three-fifths of a second in order to win,” Pletcher said. “I was happy. We got the trip. We got the trip we anticipated.”
Shanghai Bobby, who concluded his 2012 campaign with a victory in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, broke alertly from his inside post to grab the early lead in the short run to the first turn under jockey Rosie Napravnik. Itsmyluckyday also broke well from the No. 7 post under Elvis Trujillo to gain a stalking position behind Shanghai Bobby and Clearly Now without losing too much ground on the first turn. That trio continued to show the way in the 10-horse field along the backstretch before Trujillo sent his mount after the pacesetter on the final turn. The son of Lawyer Ron pulled alongside Shanghai Bobby leaving the turn into the stretch and steadily drew away from the game pacesetter to the finish.
“I’m very thankful for Mr. Plesa, who gave me the opportunity to ride Itsmyluckyday,” said Trujillo, who rode the Kentucky-bred for the first time Saturday after Paco Lopez honored a commitment to ride troubled fifth-place finisher Bern Identity. “This was the trip Mr. Plesa and I hoped for.”
Trujillo heeded Plesa’s pre-race advice to a ‘T.’
“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.’ 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,” Plesa said.
Shanghai Bobby easily finished second, 11 ½ lengths ahead of Clearly Now and jockey Luis Saez.
“He ran well. He was relaxed on the lead and went right to the front today,” said Napravnik, who has been aboard Shanghai Bobby in all his starts. “When the other horse came to him, he tried really hard.”
Itsmyluckyday, who earned $240,000 for his victory, is owned by Plesa’s wife, Laurie and Trilogy Stable (Marion Montanari and David Melin).