Itsmyluckyday progresses toward ‘Derby’

Plans are in place for the three-year-olds.

Races in Florida at Gulfstream and Calder. Races in Louisiana at the Fair Grounds and Delta Downs.

Races in California at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park. Races in Kentucky at Keeneland and Turfway Park.

Races in Arkansas at Oaklawn Park. And races in New York at Aqueduct.

All the planning and organizing of schedules by thoroughbred owners and trainers is for what most consider the most important jewel of all, the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May.

Itsmyluckyday has won his last two races and could make the Kentucky Derby field.

Itsmyluckyday has won his last two races and could make the Kentucky Derby field.

Nearly three months away on the calendar, but uppermost on the minds of those with a three-year-old they believe capable of accumulating the points necessary to qualifying for the 20-horse field that will go after this year’s Kentucky Derby win.

One of those whose path is being mapped by trainer Edward Plesa, Jr. and his wife’s Trilogy Stable as owner is Itsmyluckyday, a smooth-striding bay whose 2013 record is as eye-catching as his name is attention-getting.

Plesa and his wife, Laurie, paid $110,000 for Itsmyluckyday at the Ocala Breeders Sale last year when he was a two-year-old just beginning his training.

They liked his conformation and the way he walked with his effortless gait. His legs appeared sound and took him on a coordinated path.

His temperament was that of a cooperative student ready to receive instruction from his new trainer.

“He’s a striking physical specimen,” said Edward Plesa, Jr. “He’s very well-balanced and presents a smooth appearance.”

Itsmyluckyday has Lawyer Ron as his sire and Viva La Slew as his dam. His forefathers made the Plesas even more interested. If he could accomplish just a little of what ancestors Seattle Slew, Secretariat, Mr. Prospector, Danzig, Northern Dancer, Langfuhr, and Lord Avie did when they were on-track stars, he would easily repay them their auction price.

Itsmyluckyday wasn’t coddled or given just the most opportune spots to begin racing as a two-year-old.

He was raced seven times in 2012. His success had to be more in the eye of the beholder rather than just looking at his wins and losses.

Second in his first start at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, he also made his second start at the same track. And it was a winning one against fellow non-winning maidens.

After finishing third in the Tyro Stakes, he was shipped to Florida to run at Calder. In his two races in Florida, he defeated other stakes-placed horses on a sloppy track and came back to win a second time against the same caliber competition.

Neither of those races was in jeopardy as he won by a combined seven lengths.

It was off to Delta Downs in Louisiana for the Grade III Jackpot Stakes at the smallish track. When he finished a just-get-it-over-with sixth, nothing was accomplished other than finding out Itsmyluckyday didn’t like “bullring” tracks.

Back in Florida, a race on the grass was tried. The lithe bay showed more interest. He did well in the last quarter-mile, making up ground and passing several in the 10-horse field to finish fourth.

That race on a turf course was his last of 2012.

On January 1, 2013, Itsmyluckyday had a birthday, just like every thoroughbred in North America.

After a short winter stay in Florida to get away from the rigors of the planned racing schedule he had as a two-year-old, the Plesas, trainer Eddie and wife Laurie, were ready to implement the first part of the formula they hope will bring them a Kentucky Derby win in early May.

First up for Itsmyluckyday, was a race on the dirt at Gulfstream Park back in early January. It was the one-mile Gulfstream Park Derby.

When jockey Paco Lopez asked second-place Itsmyluckyday to move, the dark brown colt quickly accelerated and moved impressively past the race’s pace-setter. He had the lead with all of the stretch lying ahead of him.

Striding effortlessly away from the competition, rider Lopez and his charge found the wire some 6 3/4 lengths ahead of the pack of also-rans.

It had been a perfect start to a new year of racing.

Just 25 days later and still in January, the next race along the trail leading to Louisville was on the schedule.

The Grade III Holy Bull Stakes with nine other entries was also on the dirt. A little longer, it was at one-mile-and-a-sixteenth.

Unbeaten Shanghai Bobby was the post-time favorite. He had won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall to become the Winter Book favorite to win the 2013 Kentucky Derby.

The remainder of the field included a graded stakes winner and two runners-up, a stakes winner, and three stakes-placed rivals.

Elvis Trujillo was the rider this time. Moving around the last turn, Trujillo had Itsmyluckyday a close-up third. Within another 60 yards, the jockey and horse had taken charge and were the ones to catch. Even Shanghai Bobby was chasing them.

Not only was the unbeaten Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion beaten by two lengths, Itsmyluckyday had set a new track record of 1:41.81 for the 8 1/2-furlong distance.

Now with five wins in nine lifetime races, the athletic colt has been tentatively pointed toward the Florida Derby on March 30. But that would be eight weeks between races, so another plan could be on the Plesa’s drawing board.

The Florida Derby is at 1 1/8 miles, still closer to the Kentucky Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles.

Two consecutive wins to begin the last-months grind to the “Derby” is very encoraging. Beating previously undefeated Shanghai Bobby and setting a track record doing it is the most noted improvement shown by Itsmyluckyday.

As one of racing’s long-time trainers has said: “Take the good days and the wins and ride them as long as you can and as far as they will take you because all good things in racing have a way of ending.”

The “ending” for Itsmyluckyday might not happen until after this year’s Triple Crown Series (led by the May 3rd Kentucky Derby) is in the history books.

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