Updated on 03/24/2013 11:37PM

Florida Derby: Itsmyluckyday relaxes nicely in Calder workout

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Tom Keyser
Itsmyluckyday, shown working at Calder in February, has not missed a beat in his training since winning the Holy Bull Stakes in January.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Itsmyluckyday has made great strides this winter by learning to relax. He’s obviously taken his cue from his trainer, Eddie Plesa Jr., who remains remarkably calm in the face of all the pressure associated with having a leading Kentucky Derby contender in his barn.

Plesa put the finishing touches on Itsmyluckyday’s preparations for the $1 million Florida Derby when sending his star out to breeze an easy half-mile in 49.40 seconds shortly before dawn Saturday at Calder. Itsmyluckyday began the drill by posting identical 12.47 eighth-mile splits, completing his opening quarter in 24.94, before finishing up willingly without need of urging and continuing on strongly into the turn, galloping out five eighths in 1:02.30 and pulling up six panels in 1:16.79.

“Perfect, just perfect,” Plesa exclaimed. “The good thing about him is the way he’s learning to relax. He doesn’t have to go out there and run as fast as he can any more. I’m very proud of him.”

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Plesa opted to pass the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and train Itsmyluckyday up to the Florida Derby following his two-length victory over Shanghai Bobby on Jan. 26 in the Grade 3 Holy Bull. And thus far, everything has gone according to plan.

“If I had to draw a map from then to now regarding his training for the Florida Derby, this is the map I’d have drawn,” said Plesa. “Things couldn’t have gone any smoother. I only hope the post position draw doesn’t get in the way.”

A field of nine 3-year-olds is now expected for the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby, including reigning juvenile champion Shanghai Bobby and Fountain of Youth winner Orb. Others pointing for the race are Merit Man, Are You Kidding Me, Frac Daddy, Narvaez, and the Dale Romans trained duo of Pick of the Litter and the maiden Pontiff.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Itsmyluckyday wasn’t Plesa’s only Kentucky Derby hopeful to work in the dark early Saturday at Calder. He also sent out Speak Logistics to zip a sharp half-mile in 47.31 seconds and gallop out five-eighths in 1:00.37. Speak Logistics has not started since finishing a distant third behind Orb and Violence in the Fountain of Youth.

“He missed a work last week because of a slight foot problem but we put the glue-ons [shoes] on him and he looked extremely good with them this morning,” said Plesa. “He went a little faster than I wanted, but he galloped out strong.”

Plesa had originally been pointing Speak Logistics to the Wood Memorial but now has the Blue Grass, the following Saturday, on his radar.

“Tentatively, the Blue Grass is what we’re looking at for him,” said Plesa. “The Wood looks like it’s coming up an extremely tough race and missing a work didn’t help. Going to the Blue Grass would give us a little extra time.”

Java’s War preps for Blue Grass

Trainer Ken McPeek was in Kentucky on Saturday afternoon but he was still in action here during Saturday morning training hours, sending out both his Kentucky Derby hopeful Java’s War and last year’s Travers winner Golden Ticket to breeze after the renovation break.

Java’s War, runner-up in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, went an easy maintenance half-mile in 49.07 seconds before galloping out five-eighths in 1:01.89 over a faster than usual main track. He is expected to make his next start in the Blue Grass.

Golden Ticket worked five furlongs in 59.67 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.02. He is being pointed to Saturday’s Grade 3 Skip Away.