February 24, 2024

Itsmyluckyday, Orb square off in Florida Derby

Last updated: 3/27/13 5:13 PM

Itsmyluckyday might add the Florida Derby to prior wins in the Holy Bull and Gulfstream Park Derby

(Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography)

They’ve been able to avoid each other all winter while racking up wins at
Gulfstream, and are conveniently stabled in different areas of South Florida,
but the inevitable crossing of paths between Itsmyluckyday and Orb finally
arrives Saturday as the two classic prospects head a field of 10 for the Grade
1, $1 million
Florida Derby
over 1 1/8 miles.

The final Kentucky Derby prep for the two protagonists, this Florida Derby
clash also has a blue collar vs. blue blood feel to it.

The Calder-based Itsmyluckyday was a multiple stakes winner over his home
track as a juvenile, but did not seriously enter the classic picture until two
dynamite scores over the Gulfstream strip this winter. A 6 3/4-length winner of
the one-mile Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year’s Day, the Lawyer Ron colt
returned later that month to hand juvenile champion Shanghai Bobby his first
defeat, by two lengths, in the Grade 3 Holy Bull over 1 1/16 miles.

“It was a matter of him finding his niche,” trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. said. “I
was waiting for the distance races all along. Did he far exceed anything that I
thought? Absolutely. But I did expect him to be a distance horse.”

Orb races for breeders Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable, whose families
have contributed immensely to virtually every facet of the sport over several
generations but have not yet smelled the roses on the first Saturday in May at
Churchill Downs. The Malibu Moon colt arguably represents their, and Hall of
Fame trainer Shug McGaughey’s, best chance in many years of breaking the Derby

“He has made great strides since he got down here, starting with his first
work at Payson,” McGaughey said. “I came down here with the idea that he
probably wouldn’t be able to show his best with his style the way the Gulfstream
track plays (favoring speed). My expectations were that he might win an ‘a other
than’ allowance race and we’d get him back to New York and maybe get to run him
in the (Grade 1) Wood Memorial.”

Orb was up in time to stop Violence in the Fountain of Youth

(Adam Coglianese Photography)

McGaughey’s first expectation was met when Orb rallied to a one-length win
against allowance foes on the Holy Bull undercard January 26. Orb went on to
exceed those goals with another come-from-behind victory in the Grade 2 Fountain
of Youth on February 23. Benefiting from a lightning-quick pace, Orb made a
four-wide rally to win the 1 1/16-mile fixture by a half-length over the
now-retired Violence.

“He doesn’t necessarily have to win Saturday to go to the (Kentucky) Derby,
but he has to run the right kind of race. If he doesn’t, we won’t go. I want the
horse to take me there,” McGaughey said.

Slightly lost in the shuffle, but no less dangerous, is Shanghai Bobby, who
ripped through an undefeated juvenile campaign en route to Eclipse Award honors.
Hero of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Champagne and Hopeful, the son of 2002
Florida Derby winner Harlan’s Holiday was found wanting in deep stretch of the
Holy Bull against a fresher Itsmyluckyday.

“He got beat fair and square, but I hope it will move him forward,” said Jack
Wolf, the managing partner of co-owner Starlight Racing. “I know there is a
question if he can get the distance, but with his heart and determination my
expectations are as high as ever.”

Shangahi Bobby, who has a good deal of early foot, drew post 1 for the
Florida Derby, and might encounter early pressure from Merit Man, a multiple
stakes winner who stretches out for the first time beyond seven furlongs.

Frac Daddy, second by a neck in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club in his
juvenile finale, grabbed a quarter during the Holy Bull and wound up a
badly-beaten sixth. The Ken McPeek trainee was later found to have had a throat
ulcer, but has been training swiftly for his reappearance.

Are You Kidding Me, from the Roger Attfield barn, has raced exclusively on
turf and Polytrack thus far. His best has come on turf, where he finished a
close in the Grade 2 Summer at Woodbine and was beaten in a photo by the
highly-regarded Noble Tune in a Tampa Bay Downs allowance last time.

Trainer Dale Romans and jockey Jesus Castanon, who nearly pulled off an upset
of the 2011 Florida Derby with Shackleford, take their chances with Pick of the
Litter, a dominating 7 1/2-length maiden winner over the Derby
course-and-distance February 27.

The Florida Derby field is rounded out by longshots Pontiff, Indy’s Illusion
and Narvaez.

Live Lively (right) and Dreaming of Julia got acquainted in the Davona Dale

(Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography)

The Grade 2, $300,000
Gulfstream Park
, also at 1 1/8 miles, features a rematch of Live Lively and Dreaming of
Julia, the top two finishers in the Grade 2 Davona Dale on February 23.

Making her stakes debut off an 11 1/4-length allowance win, Live Lively
seized the lead early in the Davona Dale and never let go while maintaining a
comfortable margin over Dreaming of Julia at every call. The Davona Dale was the
second loss in as many attempts around two turns for Dreaming of Julia, whose
signature win last year came in the Grade 1 Frizette.

Others hoping to stamp their ticket to the Kentucky Oaks on the first Friday
in May are Emollient, the Grade 2 Demoiselle runner-up who won an allowance in
the slop at Gulfstream on February 16, and Cue the Moon, who bested Emollient in
their mutual debut at Saratoga before finishing second by a neck in the Grade 3
Tempted at Aqueduct last time November 4.

Completing the small field of six are the Canadian stakes-placed Original
Script and the allowance-class Kimberly Jean.

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