Kauai Katie Romps to Victory in Old Hat
The speedy daughter of Malibu Moon , who received the services of jockey John Velazquez for the first time, completed the six-furlong contest in 1:09.66 for trainer Todd Pletcher and Barbara Banke's Stonestreet Farm.
Going off as the 1-9 favorite in the field of five, Kauai Katie recorded her fourth triumph from five career starts and increased her earnings to $468,000 in the Old Hat, which she entered off her first defeat, a fourth in the Nov. 2 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) going 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita Park.
Kauai Katie broke well but let Cor Cor take the early lead. As Kauai Katie sat just off the pace, Cor Cor clicked off fractions of :22.22 and :44.99. Kauai then easily rushed past her rival in upper stretch and continued to increase her advantage to the wire. Cor Cor was second, with Power Lady securing the show position.
"It was really a two horse race," remarked Velazquez. "I wasn't going to let Cor Cor get away too easily so I put some pressure on her. When I got to her, Katie pulled away from them and she made it easy for me."
"My filly has tremendous early speed, that's her game," said jockey Scott Spieth, who was aboard Cor Cor. "I just wanted to get her relaxed. She left there running today and got the lead like we expected, just got outrun by a better horse today. She dug in and held second and did everything up to form."
According to Pletcher, the Jan. 26 Forward Gal Stakes (gr. III) is the next target for the newly-turned sophomore filly, who paid $2.20, $2.10, and $2.10, while Cor Cor returned $2.40 and $2.10. Power Lady paid $2.20.
"She was impressive," Pletcher said. "I was concerned about the 'three' filly (Cor Cor). It looked like she had a lot of speed and from the one post it makes it a little bit difficult tactically. It worked out well. The other filly cleared and we were able to get to the outside and make a move to stalk.
"She's a very good filly," the trainer continued. "She's probably at her best at a little shorter distance than we tried in the Breeders' Cup. Honestly, I don't think she really handled the track that day, because as fast as she is, she was never pulling herself along. She's probably better sprinting, but I'm not positive she liked the track that day."
Winner of her first three races by more than 22 lengths, Kauai Katie made her first start at Saratoga Race Course July 20 with a front-running 12-length triumph going 5 1/2 furlongs despite stumbling at the break from the rail post position.
Later on the card in the Gulfstream Park Derby, any difference of opinion concerning Itsmyluckyday's future was settled rather emphatically.
Coming off a troubled fourth on turf in the Dec. 15 Dania Beach Stakes at Gulfstream, Itsmyluckyday distinguished himself as an early Triple Crown prospect, dominating his five rivals over the main track by 6 3/4 lengths under jockey Paco Lopez.
"This horse has been training great," trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. remarked. "Paco thinks this horse is better on the turf and still thinks he's better on the turf. I have a problem with that. I know how good he's been training. He loves the dirt."
In the one-mile stakes for newly turned 3-year-olds, Itsmyluckday stamped himself as a main-track attraction and an exciting prospect for this year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), although his trainer wasn't getting ahead of things.
"I don't get Derby fever until at least April," said Plesa after the son of Lawyer Ron ran a mile in a strong 1:34.39 while pulling away to his fourth victory in eight starts.
Itsmyluckday settled in fourth on the backstretch run of the one-turn stakes before making a move on Undrafted, who had set fractions of :23.00 and :44.93. The Kentucky-bred colt challenged for the lead on the turn into the stretch before sweeping past the tiring Undrafted and lengthening his lead to the wire.
"When I looked up at the fractions, I was somewhat concerned, but he just kept on going," said Plesa, whose colt was the 3-1 third choice in the betting. "I'm very pleased with his effort."
Sr. Quisqueyano, the 5-2 second choice ridden by Joel Rosario, raced just behind the leaders throughout the race and finished second, 5 1/2 lengths ahead of Undrafted, who held third by eight lengths under John Velazquez. Star Contender, the 8-5 favorite who had never run on a dirt surface, was never a factor while finishing last.
Undefeated Purple Egg, winner of Tampa Bay Downs' Inaugural Stakes who was originally 4-1 on the morning line in the Gulfstream Park Derby, was scratched due to a viral infection.
Itsmyluckday, who is owned by Plesa's wife, Laurie, and the Trilogy Stable, earned $60,000 for his sharp effort, upping his earnings to $185,600. He was bred in Kentucky by Liberation Farm and Brandywine Farm out of the Doneraile Court mare Viva La Slew, and was a $110,000 purchase at this year's Ocala Breeders' Sale Co.'s select sale of 2-year-olds in training.
"We'll evaluate what our options are," Eddie Plesa said. "You've got the next race here (Jan. 26 Holy Bull, gr. III) and you've got another one at Tampa (Feb. 2 Sam Davis, gr. III). The main thing is: he's had a full schedule. Let's see how he comes out of this race and we'll go from there."
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