Eddie Plesa Jr., trainer of Itsmyluckyday , isn't asking for much in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) Aug. 30 at Saratoga Race Course, just a little bit of luck with the pace, something he feels he didn't get in the recent Whitney Stakes (gr. I).
In the 1 1/8-Whitney Aug. 2, Itsmyluckyday was at a disadvantage having to chase the fast and classy Moreno through a half in :47 1/5 and three-quarters in 1:11 1/5; not a slow pace by any means, but certainly slow by Moreno's standards.
Itsmyluckyday, owned by Trilogy Stable and Plesa's wife Laurie, dug in and tried hard in the stretch, but fell 1 1/4 lengths short. The nine furlongs was run in a snappy 1:48 flat.
"I think we were compromised because of the pace," Plesa said on a national teleconference Aug. 27. "This time, I'm just looking for a swifter pace and maybe a little more pressure on whoever is on the lead, which I'm sure will be Moreno. Not to take anything away from his Whitney win, but I just thought the pace benefited him."
Plesa said Itsmyluckyday will wear blinkers in the Woodward after training satisfactorily with them since the Whitney.
"In his last three races, he's been looking at the grandstand and not concentrating as much as I would like," Plesa said. "Since the Whitney, he's worked twice with them and they seemed to relax him. Some horses will get keyed up with blinkers and others will have the opposite effect and they will help relax them. And that's the way it's been with him. He acted like an older horse who has worn them before."
Itsmyluckyday was destined for stardom last year as a 3-year-old on the Triple Crown trail. Impressive victories in the Gulfstream Park Derby and Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) were followed by a strong second in the Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I). The Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) in the slop was a disaster, but he came right back two weeks later to finish a fast-closing second to the front-running Oxbow in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I). But the same scenario as the Whitney was played out in the Preakness, with Itsmyluckyday having to chase a lone classy speed horse.
Prepping for the William Hill Haskell Invitational Handicap (gr. I) in the Pegasus Stakes (gr. III) at Monmouth Park, the son of Lawyer Ron—Viva La Slew, by Doneraile Court, was eased and later discovered to have suffered a cracked pelvis.
"I've had enough experience with a cracked pelvis to know that they can come back 100% with the right amount of time," Plesa said.
Itsmyluckyday was given nine months off, returning in the grade II Gulfstream Park Handicap only because there were no other spots to run the colt. Following a fourth-place finish, he rattled off three straight wins—an overnight stakes at Gulfstream and the Majestic Light Stakes and Salvator Mile (gr. III) at Monmouth. That set him up for his big effort in the Whitney.
"With the exception of his first race back, everything we've done has been by design and every race he's won has been by design," Plesa said. "Earlier in the year I told the partners we were going to have an exciting second half of the year,"
Plesa said he's not looking ahead to the Breeders' Cup World Championships, because the colt is not nominated and it would cost $200,000 to run in the Classic (gr. I) and $120,000 to run in the Dirt Mile (gr. I). Itsmyluckyday is scheduled to be retired at the end of the year, and Plesa said he just wants to do what's best for the horse, whether that includes the Breeders' Cup or not.
For now, he's happy having a horse heading into the Woodward in the very best shape possible.
"On a scale 1 to 10, he's an 11," Plesa said. "He's showing no signs at all of fatigue."