Frankie Perez, assistant trainer for Eddie Plesa Jr.

Frankie Perez, assistant trainer for Eddie Plesa Jr.

Evan Hammonds

Plesa Assistant Hopes Third Time's the Charm

Frankie Perez makes his third trip to Derby, this time with Itsmyluckyday.

Frankie Perez, assistant trainer for Eddie Plesa Jr., is with a horse on the backstretch for the Kentucky Derby for the third time and is hoping this time's the charm. Perez, 47, is currently in charge of Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) winner Itsmyluckyday .

The pair arrived April 27 from their base in South Florida for the May 4 Run for the Roses.

"It was a great trip," Perez said of the journey. "The horse arrived here great and his first step off the van, he went right for the grass. He couldn't wait. He took three or four bites and then he stood up and let the media take his picture. He took another three or four steps, and went back to the grass. He showed he was happy to be here and happy to be in the bluegrass. This morning I got here at 4:30 and he was sound asleep. I couldn't ask for anything better."

Perez could use some better racing luck with Itsmyluckyday than he's had in past trips to Louisville.

Working for trainer Frankie Brothers, Perez made his initial trip to the Derby in 1989 with Arkansas Derby (gr. II) winner Dansil. John Franks' colt would run big, but not big enough to top Sunday Silence and Easy Goer, two horses that would both make their way to the Hall of Fame. Dansil finished fourth under the Twin Spires (Easy Goer's entrymate, Awe Inspiring, was third) and would also run fourth behind those two and Rock Point in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I).

Working for Plesa, Perez helped put the finishing touches on the brilliant filly Three Ring for the 1999 Derby.

"She didn't end up with the right trip," Perez said of Three Ring's run.

He was being kind. Barry Schwartz's Three Ring broke from post 2 in a 19-horse field, ducked in and was steadied and checked before making her way to the first turn. She finished last behind the winner Charismatic.

"People always question if fillies can run with the colts but we had a great filly," Perez said. "She was a beautiful filly; she was considered the second best at the time because Bob Baffert was here with Silverbulletday. She was a bullet."

Silverbulletday, champion at 2 and 3, won the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) as much the best the day before the Kentucky Derby.

Three Ring would bounce back to win the Acorn Stakes (gr. I) in early June after her Derby debacle but meet a cruel fate, rearing and falling in the paddock prior to the Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I). The freak accident would prove fatal because she hit her head in the fall, then struck a pole that fractured her skull while trying to get up.

But things are much better today with Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa’s Itsmyluckyday, and other stable stars Speak Logistics and Brave Dave. Brave Dave, a grade III winner last year at 2, ran second April 27 in the Big Drama Stakes at Calder Casino & Race Course.

"I'm very fortunate to have been given his opportunity, especially coming from Mexico," Perez said. "When I was a kid, I never thought I was going to reach dreams like this."

Those dreams include running a horse in the Kentucky Derby.

Itsmyluckyday, a son of Lawyer Ron—Viva La Slew, by Doneraile Court, has blossomed at 3, winning the Jan. 1 Gulfstream Park Derby by 6 3/4 lengths, getting a mile in 1:34.39. He then set a Gulfstream Park track record in the Holy Bull, traveling 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.81 while topping 2-year-old male champion Shanghai Bobby . Off a break from Jan. 26 to March 10, Itsmyluckyday ran second to Orb  in the Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I).

"There was that question when he went from the Holy Bull to the Florida Derby," Perez acknowledged. "It was a question if he needed that race. He came out of the race in good shape, and he’s here and ready to go."

Itsmyluckyday stretched his legs over the Churchill Downs main track in the early hours of April 28.

"Today we wanted to take him out a little early and give him a little jog and we can let him rest and relax the rest of the day," Perez said.

The dark bay or brown colt will gallop over the track April 29, at 8:30 a.m. after the renovation break. Plesa is slated to arrive later in the day.

Until then, Perez will hold down the fort, hoping his third trip to the Derby brings him better luck.