Saturday's Stakes Recaps

Saturday's Stakes Recaps

Itsmyluckyday runs past Shanghai Bobby in record-setting Holy Bull

Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa's Itsmyluckyday collared two-year-old champion Shanghai Bobby in the stretch run of Saturday's Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes and went on to a convincing two-length victory, establishing himself as a serious prospect for this year's Kentucky Derby while smashing the track record at Gulfstream Park. The emerging three-year-old colt completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:41 4/5 with jockey Elvis Trujillo, bettering the old mark of 1:42 1/5 for the re-configured nine-furlong oval.

"Words can't describe it. It's something everybody should feel. Anybody in this game deserves to have this feeling," jubilant trainer Ed Plesa Jr. said. "I wish them all to have this feeling sometime...just not today."

Itsmyluckyday did not have a graded stakes win beforehand and was unplaced in both starts in November and December, but the dark bay son of Lawyer Ron entered the Holy Bull on the upswing, posting a 6 3/4-length runaway victory in the listed Gulfstream Park Derby on January 1. He proved that performance was no fluke on Saturday.

Shanghai Bobby, who brought a perfect five-for-five mark into the Holy Bull, showed speed as expected from his rail post and the even-money favorite led the way into the first turn while being chased by longshot Clearly Now. Itsmyluckyday broke well and settled just behind the top pair in third, a length back after an opening quarter-mile in :23 1/5. The top three continued along the same order down the backstretch as the half-mile was recorded in :46 3/5.

Shanghai Bobby continued to lead the way determinedly through the far turn, but Itsmyluckyday began to inch forward on the bend and was only a half-length back in second after three-quarters of a mile in 1:10 3/5. He advanced to challenge after entering the straightaway, reaching equal terms with a quarter-mile remaining, and easily got the better of his rival in the final furlong, drawing away nicely under the wire.

Trujillo was riding Itsmyluckyday for the first time after previous jockey Paco Lopez honored a commitment to ride fifth-placer Bern Identity.

"I told Elvis, 'If you're seven-wide on the first turn and four-wide heading for home, you're not going to win the race,'" said Plesa, a longtime South Florida-based conditioner. "I just wanted the best horse to win the race; I believe that's what happened today. I didn't see anybody that had any big excuses as far as wide trips. That's what I wanted for our horse; I wanted a fair chance to win the race."

"I'm very thankful for Mr. Plesa, who gave me the opportunity to ride Itsmyluckyday," Trujillo added. "This was the trip Mr. Plesa and I hoped for."

Sent off the 7-2 third choice among 10 runners, Itsmyluckyday returned $11.40, $4.40 and $3.80 to his supporters.

Shanghai Bobby sustained his first loss but was hardly humbled, finishing 11 1/2 lengths clear of third.

"The winner was very good today. We were second best," trainer Todd Pletcher said of the runner-up. "We got a good trip and didn't expect to break the track record by three-fifths of a second in order to win. I was happy. We got the trip. We got the trip we anticipated."

"He ran well. He was relaxed on the lead and went right to the front today," said Rosie Napravnik, who has been aboard Shanghai Bobby in all his starts. "When the other horse came to him, he tried really hard."

Clearly Now managed to save the third spot at 42-1, and it was another half-length back to the 132-1 outsider Joshua's Comprise in fourth. Next came Bern Identity, Frac Daddy, Dewey Square, Sr. Quisqueyano, Tulira Castle and Fredericksburg.

With the $240,000 payday, Itsmyluckyday mare than doubled his career earnings to $425,600 from a 9-5-1-1 career line. Plesa was asked what's next for the Kentucky Derby contender.

"We'll see how he comes out of the race, but I'd lean toward the Florida Derby (on March 30)," Plesa said of the Gulfstream's $1 million showcase. "But he's going to tell me what he wants to do. Then I'll sit down with our partners and we'll discuss it."

Bred in Kentucky by Liberation Farm and Brandywine Farm, Itsmyluckyday broke his maiden in his second start at Monmouth Park last June. He followed that with a close third in the grassy Tyro and then captured the off-the-turf Fasig-Tipton Turf Dash. Following a three-length tally in the September 15 Foolish Pleasure at Calder, the colt recorded a sixth in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot and a fourth in the Dania Beach, the latter coming over Gulfstream's turf on December 15. The Gulfstream Park Derby served as a breakout performance and Itsmyluckyday continued to show more in the Holy Bull.

"Everybody's excited because of the Kentucky Derby. It's hard not to get wrapped up in that," Plesa noted.

Out of the stakes-placed Doneraile Court mare Viva La Slew, Itsmyluckyday initially brought $47,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale before selling to his current connections for $110,000 at the 2012 OBS March two-year-old sale. He hails from the same female family of Vicar, who captured the Grade 1 Florida Derby and Grade 1 Fountain of Youth in 1999.

Kauai Katie romps in Forward Gal

Stonestreet Stables' Kauai Katie continued her winning ways this year with yet another easy win for trainer Todd Pletcher, this time in the Grade 2, $200,000 Forward Gal at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. With jockey John Velazquez aboard, the Malibu Moon miss grabbed command from the start and never looked back while pulling away in the lane to be 5 1/2 lengths clear of My Happy Face on the wire.

Kauai Katie set splits of :22 4/5, :45 3/5 and 1:09 3/5 while tracked by Pow Wow Wow on the backstretch of the one-turn contest. That one dropped back a bit entering the lane, leaving the way clear for My Happy Face to make a run after saving ground down on the rail.

It wasn't enough to catch Kauai Katie, though, who was just too good for her rivals while completing seven furlongs over the fast dirt in 1:22.

"We expected to be in front, thinking that My Happy Face would show some speed, but I ended up on the lead straight out of the gate so I let her do her thing," Velazquez remarked. "When I asked for more at the quarter-pole she went instantly with ease, very impressive."

"We really weren't sure whether she would be on the lead or not, but once she broke so alertly there was no point to try and take her back," Pletcher agreed. "She ran the race we were hoping for."

Sent off the prohibitive 1-9 favorite, Kauai Katie paid $2.60, $2.20 and $2.10. My Happy Face was best of the rest, 2 3/4 lengths in front of Pow Wow Wow on the wire, while Fusaichiswonderful followed in fourth. Grade 2 heroine Spring Venture and Ashlee's Princess completed the order of finish.

Kauai Katie is now five-for-six, with her lone loss coming at 1 1/16 miles when fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last November. Prior to that, the bay lass broke her maiden by 12 lengths while sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs at Saratoga, captured the Grade 2 Adirondack during the Spa meet going 6 1/2 furlongs and then shipped to Belmont Park to add the Grade 2 Matron to her resume while running six furlongs.

Kauai Katie made her seasonal debut on her official three-year-old birthday, taking the six-furlong, Grade 3 Old Hat by eight lengths on New Year's Day, and has more than earned back her purchase price of $490,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Florida two-year-old having now banked $588,000 in her career.

According to her trainer, the swift miss will stick to sprinting and be freshened up for her next start.

"I'd say that's it for her at Gulfstream with the next two races at a mile-and-a-sixteenth and a mile-and-an-eighth," Pletcher explained. "As I've said before the major summer goals for her will be the (Grade 1) Prioress (going six furlongs on July 27) and (Grade 1) Test (at seven furlongs on August 24) at Saratoga. She'll freshen up a little for now."

Sold for $90,000 as a Keeneland September yearling before coming to her current connections, Kauai Katie is out of the stakes-winning More Than Ready mare More Than Pretty, and her second dam is Pretty Livia, who also produced stakes heroine Ingrid the Gambler. This is also the family of Grade 3 winner Cimarron Secret and Grade 1-placed multiple stakes victress Cojinx.

Kauai Katie is a full sister to Grade 3 victress Winding Way, who suffered her first loss when fourth in the L.A. Woman last October.

Fiftyshadesofhay earns first stakes win in Santa Ysabel

Fiftyshadesofhay flew home in the stretch of Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Santa Ysabel at Santa Anita to take her first stakes victory in impressive fashion under jockey Rafael Bejarano. The Bob Baffert-trained daughter of Pulpit bided her time in second on the backstretch of the 1 1/16-mile contest before easily swooping past pacesetter Escape Act to take command and draw off by 5 3/4 lengths on the wire.

Both Fiftyshadesofhay and Escape Act were exiting stakes debuts in the grassy Blue Norther, with Fiftyshadesofhay finishing eighth that day and Escape Act getting up to be fourth, just a neck back of the winner in a blanket finish. This time around, the duo were in front instead of racing in midpack and Escape Act posted splits of :22 2/5 and :26 1/5 for the first half-mile.

Fiftyshadesofhay took over rounding the turn, getting three-quarters in 1:10 4/5, and kept motoring to finish up in 1:42 4/5 over the sealed, wet-fast dirt at Santa Anita.

"I had to move a little early today. The pace was fast but the way the track played today was really fast," Bejarano said. "I was really comfortable with my horse, and when I saw the other horse (Escape Act) was done at the three-eighths pole I let my horse go and open up three or four lengths in the stretch because I knew they weren't going to catch me."

Campaigned by Karl Watson, Michael Pegram and Paul Weitman, Fiftyshadesofhay was sent off the 6-1 second longest shot in the five-horse field and and returned $14.40, $4.80 and $2.40 to her faithful backers.

Heir Kitty, who was fifth in the Blue Norther, split rivals on the turn and got up for second, 1 1/2 lengths in front of 3-2 favorite and Blue Norther nose runner-up Scarlet Strike. Switch to the Lead was fourth, eased under the wire 27 1/4 lengths back of Scarlet Strike, while Escape Act was also eased in the lane another 20 3/4 lengths behind in last. Branding was withdrawn.

"We had a pretty good trip today. The track is pretty fast. Wherever they want to race, they just kind of seemed to stay there," said Scarlet Strike's rider, Joe Talamo. "Obviously, I thought we were going to win. We were pretty high on her coming in, but the track's so quick today, it's hard to make up any ground. They all seemed to run in place."

Fiftyshadesofhay took four tries to break her maiden, improving her position by one spot in each race to finally get the job done over Hollywood Park's Cushion Track on November 22 in a gate-to-wire effort. The bay filly never appeared to factor while trying turf for the first time in the Blue Norther last out, and improved her career record to 6-2-1-1, $106,490, following the Santa Ysabel.

"I knew she'd break well, the way the track was today," Baffert remarked. "The turf race (Blue Norther) was kind of disastrous. We thought we'd put her in here and get her out there and let her roll.

"She can run all day long. She's fast and she wants to be out there. We had a big advantage the way the track is playing today. We were very high on her early in the year and it's taken her a while to come around. But she ran like she's supposed to do. She didn't like the turf, so it was a good win.

"She has a high cruising speed. She's not going to kick on; she's not going to be quick enough for that, but she can go a mile-and-an-eighth, a mile-and-a-quarter. She can go really far. Today she got the trip. The turf race was an experiment that didn't work, and it worked out today."

Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, Fiftyshadesofhay sold for $175,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. She is the second registered foal out of the Grade 1-placed Real Quiet mare Quiet Kim and counts as her fourth dam the stakes-winning It's Freezing mare Ice Fantasy.

That one would produce dual Grade 3 victor Fighting Fantasy as well as the dam of Grade 1 winner Snow Ridge. Afleet Express, hero of the 2010 Grade 1 Travers, is also descended from Ice Fantasy.

'Teddy' lives up to Promise in Santa Monica

Ted and Judy Nichols' homebred Teddy's Promise romped by 5 1/4 lengths in the Kalookan Queen to close out 2012 and opened her five-year-old season in the same fashion with an easy score in Saturday's Grade 2, $250,500 Santa Monica at Santa Anita. The dark bay mare ran fifth in this race last year when it was a Grade 1, but was the 3-2 favorite to win this time around under jockey Victor Espinoza.

"She set up very well for me. She broke a little slow out of the gate but it was good for me," Espinoza said. "That's what I wanted, a chance to move to the outside. There were two horses in front of me and I just tracked them. At the three-eighths pole I kind of just let her do her own thing, and turning for home I just let her run.

"She's an unbelievable filly and I know Ron (Ellis) is the best in training her. When she's good she can beat anybody. She and I have been getting along the few times I rode her. I know how she likes to run and she ran big in the last race and then again today. Hopefully she has come back as herself."

Kindle set the pace through fractions of :22 4/5, :45 3/5 and 1:09 3/5 while closely tracked by Distracting and Teddy's Promise. Distracting started to fade, but Teddy's Promise was still going strong, drawing even with Kindle rounding the turn. The Salt Lake mare appeared ready to blow on by, but Kindle fought back on the inside.

The duo briefly dueled before Teddy's Promise put her rival away and pulled away to stop the clock in 1:22 3/5 for seven furlongs on the sealed, wet-fast dirt. She gave back $5, $3.40 and $2.40 to her many supporters.

Sugarinthemorning got up to take second from Kindle by a half-length, while Distracting finished another three parts of a length back in fourth. Belle of the Hall, Journaliste and Pink Lollipops completed the order under the wire after Byrama and Rumor were both scratched.

"I knew we would have to earn it; we wouldn't be given anything, and I couldn't be prouder of my filly," trainer Gary Mandella said of Kindle's performance. "That's as good as she can run going seven-eighths. We knew we might be running her a little bit past her optimal distance; that's what we proved today. But she also proved she has a lot of heart. A perfect, trip, a perfect ride. That's the best I can expect from this filly."

Teddy's Promise is now 8-2-1 from 21 career starts and has accumulated $634,981 in lifetime earnings. In addition to this one and the Kalookan Queen, she's also captured the Grade 1 La Brea in 2011 and last season's Time to Leave.

"She's back in form," trainer Ron Ellis asserted. "I think that last race kind of got her a lot of confidence. She's really starting to relax and mature mentally. Physically, she's always been quite a specimen, but mentally she's really turned a corner for us.

"I certainly don't think the mud hurts her. Her last one was on a little bit of a wet track. This was a muddier track today, but she won a Grade 1 on a fast track, so I think here at Santa Anita on the regular dirt it's a little bit better fit."

The California-bred filly is out of the Capote mare Braids and Beads, who is a half-sister to Grade 3-scoring sire General Meeting. Her third dam is Grade 3 vixen Summertime Promise, and this female line also includes multiple Grade 2 hero and top sire Carson City as well as Grade 1 victor Danger's Hour.



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