HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Itsmyluckyday stalked the pace before effortlessly moving to the lead at the top of the stretch and cruising to victory in Saturday’s $75,000 Rest of the Rest Stakes at Gulfstream Park, exuding the class and talent that had made him one of the most exciting Triple Crown prospects a year ago.
The Eddie Plesa Jr.-trained 4-year-old, who scored his first victory since winning the $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream in January 2013, ran second in last year’s Preakness Stakes after finishing off the board in the Kentucky Derby due to a dislike for the sloppy sealed surface. Unfortunately, he suffered a pelvic fracture last June that kept him out of action for almost eight months before finishing fourth behind victorious Palace Malice in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) on March 8.
“It’s somewhat of a vindication. They dismiss horses and people very quickly in this sport. He has been off the radar for a long time, and that’s OK because he should have been,” Plesa said. “He ran the race I would have expected him to run. Anything other than how he won, I probably would have been somewhat disappointed. If he was all out to win by a length or two lengths, I would have said, ‘Maybe he needed the race.’ But I would have been disappointed.”
Itsmyluckyday broke alertly from the starting gate and closely stalked pacesetter Sr. Quisqueyano around the first turn, along the backstretch and around the far turn before moving to the lead under a motionless Paco Lopez. The 1-2 favorite in the seven-horse field was never asked to run through the stretch and won as he and Lopez pleased.
“He’s an easy horse to ride,” said Lopez, who rode four winners on Saturday’s card. “He’s a class horse.”
The son of Lawyer Ron, who also won the Gulfstream Park Derby and finished second behind Orb in the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby last year, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.38. Sr. Quisqueyano, the 3-1 second choice ridden by Carlos Olivero, held second place, 2 ¼ lengths ahead of Joshua’s Comprise and jockey Jilver Chamafi.
Plesa watched the 1 1/16-mile stakes in the tack room in his barn on the Monmouth Park backstretch.
“I told Laurie before the race, “I feel more nervous sitting here than I would have been if I were there.' Part of it I wasn’t able to see him,” said Plesa, whose wife Laurie and the Trilogy Stable own the Kentucky-bred colt.
However, there weren’t any nervous moments during the race.
“He did it the way I felt he was supposed to do it. He is a class horse. I think before the year’s out, we’ll be talking about him as one of the top handicap horses in the country, barring the unforeseen,” Plesa said. “He had everything going his way. He had a race underneath his belt. He had a racetrack surface that he liked. It was a tough field of horses, I don’t want to take anything away from them, but he did what he was supposed to do.”
Itsmyluckyday has been trained at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County and will join Plesa at Monmouth Park for the spring and summer months.
“I’m just looking to find a couple easy spots before we go hunting the heavy heads,” Plesa said. “We’ll try to build his confidence and everything else up, so when I have to run against a horse like Palace Malice next time, I’ll be able to say, ‘This horse is ready to give his best performance and ready to find out where he belongs.”