Pluck Has No Luck in Tampa Bay Return

Stuck behind a slow pace, last year's BC Juvenile Turf winner finishes fourth.

Pluck, making his first start since winning last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IIT), failed to fire in an allowance race at Tampa Bay Downs March 12 and finished fourth as the 3-10 favorite (VIDEO).

Second choice Lil Bit O'Fun (4-1) captured the $27,000 allowance grass test at one mile by 1 1/2 lengths. Marco's Fling, at 112-1, finished second in the nine-horse field of 3-year-olds after setting a slow pace.

Pluck, starting for the first time for trainer Graham Motion, raced in a box near the rail while fifth or sixth to the far turn. Jockey Ramon Dominguez angled the son of More Than Ready  five wide coming out of the bend, and Pluck gradually gained ground through the lane while beaten by 2 1/2 lengths. Pluck, who was trained by Todd Pletcher as a 2-year-old, carried top weight of 122 pounds.

Over a firm course, fractions for the first six furlongs were :24.74, :50.87 and 1:15.59. The final time was 1:38.11.

Lil Bit O'Fun, with Leandro Goncalves aboard, got the jump on Pluck while also racing wide off the turn. He swept past the leading Marco's Fling approaching mid-stretch and held sway in the final sixteenth while toting 120 pounds. He paid $10.80 to win and topped a $608.40 exacta with Marco's Fling, who was making his turf debut with Alex Cintron aboard. A half-length back was Tag V Eye under Alex Solis, finishing a half-length in front of Pluck. The $2 trifecta returned $6,873.40 and a $1 superfecta was worth $15,705.40.

Pluck, owned by Team Valor International and Vinery Stables, was also entered in the $100,000 Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park the same day. Motion, saying his colt would prefer the lusher turf at Tampa Bay, opted for the allowance race instead.

Pluck is gearing up for the group I French Two Thousand Guineas equivalent May 15, according to his connections. Motion has designated one other prep race for Pluck -- the Transylvania Stakes (gr. IIIT) April 8 at Keeneland.

Out of Secret Heart, by Fort Wood, Pluck also won the Summer Stakes Presented by TVG (gr. IIIT) at Woodbine last September. He ended the year with three wins from five outings and earned $725,440.