03/06/2014 4:42PM

Gulfstream Park Handicap: Palace Malice, Itsmyluckyday clash

Barbara D. Livingston
Palace Malice (right), training with Cantron on Sunday, makes his first start since running sixth in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The last time Palace Malice and Itsmyluckyday faced one another, the band was playing My Old Kentucky Home as they walked onto the racetrack prior to squaring off in the 2013 Kentucky Derby.

There will be far less fanfare, and the distance a mere mile rather than 1 1/4 miles, when two of the stars of last year’s Triple Crown season kick off their 2014 campaigns against six rivals in Saturday’s $250,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap.

Palace Malice finished 12th after setting a hot pace in the Derby, skipped the Preakness, then came back to win the Belmont Stakes in impressive fashion. Itsmyluckyday struggled over the wet track and checked home 15th in the Derby, nearly seven lengths behind Palace Malice, before rebounding two weeks later to finish second in the Preakness.

[DRF Live: Get live reports and handicapping insights from DRF writers and handicappers this Saturday]

Palace Malice was among the leaders of his division during the second half of his 3-year-old campaign, winning the Grade 2 Jim Dandy before finishing fourth following a poor start in the Travers. He faced older horses in his final two starts of the year, finishing a distant second behind a freakish Ron the Greek in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and sixth, following another tardy beginning, in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“We’re really excited about getting him back,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “He’s shown enough speed in some of his races to lead us to believe a mile is well within his range. He had some huge moments as a 3-year-old. He was a little unlucky at times, but a half a length here and there and he could have had an unbelievable season. We always felt he was the type of horse who’d continue to develop as he got older, so we’re really looking forward to seeing what he can do this year.”

Itsmyluckyday has not started since suffering a pelvic fracture during the Grade 3 Pegasus on June 16 at Monmouth Park. That outing was his first since finishing second, 1 3/4 lengths behind Oxbow, in the Preakness.

“Everything is 110 percent,” said trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. “He’s just exactly where we want him, and this race came up in the right time frame, so that’s why we’re bringing him back here Saturday. Although the race did come up a little tougher than maybe I would have wanted to start the year.”

[Gulfstream Park Handicap: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live]

Plesa said the distance of the Gulfstream Park Handicap is right up Itsmyluckyday’s alley. He won the Gulfstream Park Derby going a mile here in his 3-year-old debut.

“A mile is his distance, especially over this racetrack,” Plesa said. “He’s training just like he’s always trained. He’s gotten bigger and stronger with the time off. I always thought he was one of the more impressive horses training for the Derby and the Preakness, and if you watched him training now, he looks exactly the same.”

Palace Malice and itsmyluckyday will have to be on top of their games coming off layoffs, with several of the leading contenders in the Gulfstream Park Handicap already having had a race or two over the track this winter, most notably Falling Sky and Brujo de Olleros.

Falling Sky extended Palace Malice’s stablemate and fellow Triple Crown rival Revolutionary before finishing a game second going a mile under allowance conditions in January. He returned to run the race of his life, winning the seven-furlong Gulfstream Park Sprint Handicap by 5 1/2 lengths four weeks later.

“I think his speed is a weapon, an asset for him,” said trainer George Weaver when asked about his strategy for Falling Sky on Saturday. “He’s not the kind of horse you want to bottle up early. You’ve got to let him stretch his legs, although I don’t think he absolutely needs the lead, either. We’ll see how the race comes up and let the rider play it from there.”

Elvis Trujillo will be aboard Falling Sky for the first time Saturday, replacing Luis Saez, who is in California to ride Will Take Charge in the Santa Anita Handicap.

Brujo de Olleros will stretch back to a mile for the first time since finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and should benefit from what appears to be an abundance of pace in Saturday’s lineup. Brujo de Olleros rallied to finish third behind Falling Sky when the pair met four weeks earlier in the Gulfstream Park Sprint.

Golden Ticket finished three lengths in front of Brujo de Olleros when second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, but has not started since finishing eighth in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap.

Completing the lineup are Narvaez, Uncaptured, and Sr. Quisqueyano.

prose More than 1 year ago
How can I bet a horse that has broken its pelvis? My gram broke her pelvis and she limped around for a long time, and she's still in pain. No thank you. Either Palace Malice or Falling Sky will win this race.
Ann More than 1 year ago
Friend had a filly who cracked her pelvis at 2, came back and was a winner at 3. Older animals (and people) don't heal as readily or completely as youngsters.
jttf More than 1 year ago
will use the two closers from speed biased track.
sjm80s . More than 1 year ago
Oh wait, ONE mile? Itsmyluckyday might hammer this home right off the bench.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Please tell me when was the last time imld win a race off a layoff?
Ann More than 1 year ago
He's only 4, and he has only short 2-month layoffs in his PPs, not a long 9 month one like this. Not at all comparable. And those two "come-back" races? One was on the bullring at Delta, which many horses don't like, and the other was the Florida Derby, a G1 in which he was beaten into second by the Derby winner Orb.
sjm80s . More than 1 year ago
If he's right.
Geral John Pinault More than 1 year ago
Falling Sky is in top shape. If the early to mid-day bias favors speed he'll be gone as Itsmyluckyday needs a race and a mile is a little short for Palace Malice!!!
J.L. Boey More than 1 year ago
1) There is a big difference between 7f and a mile at Gulfstream. I would bet on Falling Sky to tire late. 2) Palace Malice hasn't finished worse than second in 3 sprints. But I would bet for both favorites to need a race. The best bet is Brujo WP.
Ann More than 1 year ago
Coming from far back? On this track? Exacta, yes, win, no.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
When they turn for home and straighten out for the run home. Itsmyluckyday is the horse Palice will be chasing.
sjm80s . More than 1 year ago
If he's right.
Mark More than 1 year ago
He will need at least 1 before he's in top form. PM for fun .
Daniel Alvarado More than 1 year ago
Palace Malice should make easy work outta this field...expect big things from him this year.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Mike Lee More than 1 year ago
Malice's daddy Curlin grew like a beast sometime between his three year old and four year old season,and it showed like hell on the racetrack in'08....they don't call him Mighty Curlin for nothing ...it appears that the same damn thing has happened to Malice...he's bulging muscles everywhere!!! ...hope that translates into victory,just like it did for his daddy!
Betany Caballero More than 1 year ago
Itsmyluckyday has the late Lawyer Ron as his sire. No slouch he.
Greg Stevens More than 1 year ago
Lawyer Ron never looked half as good as CURLIN did...CURLIN beat Ron the only 2 times they met...Palace Malice does look really good now..if he's able to stay close early he crushes this field
J.L. Boey More than 1 year ago
2007 Jockey Club Gold Cup - Lawyer Ron and Curlin. He was a little bit more than half as good I think.
Eric Rickard More than 1 year ago
Lawyer Ron lost by a head in the 2007 JCGC. But that was a mile and a quarter. This is a mile and if the two horses are fit; i give the edge to ITSMYLUCKYDAY….
Ann More than 1 year ago
Handsome is as handsome does. Don't get carried away with size and muscles. Northern Dancer was a little bulldog, 15.1 only in his lift-shoes. Affirmed was smaller and less physically impressive than Alydar, but who did most of the winning? Ditto Sunday Silence and Easy Goer. Some very plain horses have been monsters on the track.
Mark More than 1 year ago