The Kentucky Derby hopes of Grade 3 Holy Bull winner Itsmyluckyday and Eclipse Award-winning Shanghai Bobby, among others, lie in
their respective performances in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Florida
With so much at stake in Gulfstream Park’s marquee event,
Itsmyluckyday’s trainer is hoping that the 10 entrants in the 1 1/8-mile
Kentucky Derby prep have the opportunity to offer their best efforts to decide
who continues on to Churchill Downs.
“I don’t want any extenuating circumstances to come in the
way of everybody’s best race. I just want everybody to have a fair shot,” said
Eddie Plesa Jr., who is scheduled to saddle Itsmyluckyday for an attempt at a
third-straight stakes victory at the current Gulfstream meeting. “I’ve got a lot
of confidence in my horse, as I’m sure as everybody else does, and I don’t want
anything to come in the way of it.”
Despite his high ranking among the 2013 crop of
three-year-olds, Itsmyluckyday will likely need a first- or second-place finish in
the Florida Derby to secure a spot in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field. The
Todd Pletcher-trained Shanghai Bobby, a multiple Grade 1 winner at two,
will likely need to finish no worse than third to qualify for the Derby under
Churchill Downs’ new points system, which has assigned 180 points to the Florida
Derby with 100 for first, 50 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth.
Having collected 50 points for his Grade 2 Fountain
of Youth triumph, the Shug McGaughey-trained Orb is the only horse in the
Florida Derby field assured of a Kentucky Derby berth.
“I just want the best horse to win. I don’t want anybody to
have to come out of that race — me, Todd, Shug or any of the others in the race
— and say, ‘This happened to me; that happened to me,'” said Plesa, whose colt
has been installed as the 2-1 favorite on the morning line over Shanghai Bobby
(5-2) and Orb (3-1). “I just want everybody to have a fair shot at the race.”
Itsmyluckyday has emerged as one of the country’s top
three-year-olds this season, capturing the Gulfstream Park Derby by nearly
seven lengths on January 1 before handing previously undefeated Shanghai Bobby his
first career loss with a two-length triumph in the Holy Bull on January
“I’ve got a horse that could not be feeling any better.
He’s just tearing down the barn. He’s a very, very happy horse. He’s been away
from the races for a little while and hasn’t missed a day of training, hasn’t
missed a work,” Plesa said. “How do I feel? If I’d have known it would have gone
this smooth, I would have been so happy.”
Although Shanghai Bobby suffered his first career loss in
the Holy Bull, his connections don’t necessarily see his
two-length defeat to Itsmyluckyday as a negative.
“I think from a numbers standpoint the Holy Bull was his
best race. I think we got sort of the worst of the track and the pace scenario
and got stuck in the one hole,” Starlight Racing’s Jack Wolf remarked.
“Having said that, I give credit to the horse that
beat us, Itsmyluckyday. He certainly has shown in his last two races that he’s
the horse to beat as far as I’m concerned. We were pleased with how Shanghai
Bobby ran and how he’s been training.
“There’s not much we can do at this point, the trainer’s
got the horse ready and the horse is going to do his own speaking,” added Wolf,
whose stable sold a significant interest in the 2012 juvenile champion to Mrs.
John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith. “It’s exciting for me and our
partners to compete at these levels, so hopefully he shows up and has a good
race. The main thing is to get here and hopefully be lucky enough to have a good trip
and win the race.”
The Harlan’s Holiday colt hasn’t wowed observers
during his recent workouts at Palm Meadows Training Center, but the dark bay has always done his best running in the afternoon.
“He’s never been much of a work horse in the morning, but
he’s shown up in every one of his races, even though he lost his last race,”
Wolf said. “He’s progressed along; Todd likes the fitness level that he’s got
him to at this point. He’s carrying good flesh, his coat looks good, his energy
level is good and we’re pretty excited.”