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Gulfstream Park: Holy Bull top two to skip Fountain of Youth and await Florida Derby
By Mike Welsch
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The Grade 2 Fountain of Youth is one of the most important prep races on the Kentucky Derby trail, and this winter it is a second-tier race worth 50 points to the winner in the new system used to determine eligibility for this year’s Derby field.
But barring some late changes of heart, it would appear the four major players from last Saturday’s program could all wind up bypassing the Fountain of Youth on Feb. 23, including Itsmyluckyday and Shanghai Bobby, the first- and second-place finishers in the Grade 3 Holy Bull.
Itsmyluckyday handed 2-year-old champion Shanghai Bobby the first defeat of his career and set a track record for 1 1/16 miles in the Holy Bull. Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. said Itsmyluckyday came out of the race “110 percent” but that he plans to stick with his original schedule and forgo the Fountain of Youth to await the $1 million Florida Derby on March 30.
“He came out of the race like you’d have hoped he would,” Plesa said on Monday. “Was he tired after the race? Absolutely. Was he dead on his feet? No.”
Itsmyluckyday’s win came on the heels of an easy victory in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year’s Day.
Itsmyluckyday earned a 104 Beyer Speed Figure for running the 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.81 in the Holy Bull. He is owned by Plesa’s wife, Laurie, and the Trilogy Stable of Marion Montanari and David Melin.
“In all the years I’ve been doing this, I think this victory was different than the rest,” said Plesa. “It was very gratifying for me, especially when you’ve trained for the same people for over 20 years and they get to experience something like this with you, not only as a partner but as a friend.
“Right now the plan is to skip the Fountain of Youth and run in the Florida Derby, although the new point system smacks you right in the face. Ideally we only want to run him once more before the Kentucky Derby. I’m not saying we wouldn’t run him again if for some reason we didn’t have enough points after the Florida Derby. But for us it’s all about the horse, and at this point I’d say we probably wouldn’t.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher echoed similar sentiments regarding the upcoming itinerary for Shanghai Bobby, who earned a career-best 100 Beyer Figure despite suffering his first loss in six starts in the Holy Bull.
“I thought he ran super,” Pletcher said. “We got the trip we anticipated. He got a little bit of pressure throughout the race. He kicked on, ran hard. The winner was just very good. He got a lifetime-best Beyer, took a couple of fifths off the track record, and beat the third horse by 12 lengths. Sometimes you can only run so good, but I think for his first start of the season and first start since the Breeders’ Cup it was a promising performance.”
Pletcher said he too plans to bypass the Fountain of Youth to await the Florida Derby five weeks later.
“It’s too early to say, but I don’t think he did anything on Saturday to take us off our game plan, which is to run one more time before the Kentucky Derby,” said Pletcher. “It’s just frustrating we still have to look at points with a horse that’s 5 for 6 and won all the races he’s won. We do still have to be aware of that.”
Options for allowance winners
Cerro and Orb were impressive winners of a split allowance race at 1 1/8 miles on Saturday’s Holy Bull undercard. Cerro earned a 90 Beyer after leading throughout to capture the first and faster division, while Orb overcame early trouble to prove a convincing winner of the second split.
Trainer Graham Motion said Cerro will likely go back to the grass for his next start rather than into the Fountain of Youth, with the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes on March 3 the most likely spot for his next appearance.
“We might go the route we’ve gone before and try the Palm Beach, which we did with State of Play, then go to Turfway,” said Motion. “We’ve had a lot of luck at Turfway over the past few years with these European-type horses. It would be a nice stepping-stone, an easier progression, rather than throwing him to the wolves and going in against the heavy heads in the Fountain of Youth.”
Cerro also has a new celebrity owner in the mix. Olympic gold medal champion swimmer Michael Phelps and his longtime coach, Bob Bowman, bought into the Team Valor partnership that races Cerro following the colt’s 3-year-old debut here on Jan. 1.
Trainer Shug McGaughey said Sunday that no real discussions have been held regarding Orb’s future itinerary. Orb, a homebred owned by Stuart Janney III and the Phipps Stable, received a lifetime-best 83 Beyer for his one-length victory over a game Duke of the City on Saturday.
Holy Bull also-rans remain on trail
Trainers Ken McPeek and Dale Romans said they will both forge ahead on the Kentucky Derby trail with Frac Daddy and Dewey Square despite their sixth- and seventh-place finishes in the Holy Bull.
McPeek said Frac Daddy grabbed a quarter in his left front early in the race, which severely compromised his chances in his 3-year-old debut.
“We had to cut off a piece a little bigger than a quarter, it was pretty nasty,” McPeek said. “He was leaving a puddle of blood all the way around the barn that evening. He’ll be standing in a foot tub for a while and probably miss a week’s training. I don’t know that the configuration of this racetrack, with the short run to the first turn, is a good deal for him. I think he’d prefer a long stretch like the Fair Grounds, and I’d probably thinking about going that way if it’s the way things unfold.”
Romans said Dewey Square didn’t seem to handle the track on Saturday.
“He didn’t like the dirt,” said Romans. “As soon as he got hit in the face with a little he got his head way up. Kind of reminds me of the way Shackleford ran in the Fountain of Youth. We’re not going to give up on him. We’ll stay the course.”
The horse they will all have to beat in May is Verrazano. 105 Beyer going a mile ? Fear him... if he wins his next at 2 turns he will be the Derby favorite.
Whewwwwww!! all these comments about father /son /points.WTF? MLD looks like a beast right now,but then again were 90 days out,another good looking prospect Dynamic Sky
Dont estimate your horse Todd, his perigree says sprinting, he definitely wont get a mile and a quarter. Nice race by him though I give him credit.
I firmly believe the Derby winner is coming out of Florida, but not sure if it's either of these two.
I'm a BIG Shanghai Bobby fan, but IMLD ran a great race and I congratulate his connections. He certainly looks like he will be there in the starting gate on May 4th. Elvis had a helluva ride on IMLD. I love this time of year! I only wished I lived near a track......stuck in the woods of northern Michigan.
itsmyluckyday's father, lawyer ron ran extremely well in the kentucky derby preps. he accumulated 210 points. but his two worse races of his life were run at churchill downs at 10 furlongs. now for shanghai bobby's father, harlan's holiday (at least 200 points), he won the blue grass and florida derbies before finishing 7th in the kentucky derby. he also finished out of the money in the preakness. only one of his sons have reached the derby. that was denis of cork (unbridled) who finished 3rd in the derby and second in the belmont. in 2012, pletcher trained another harlan's holiday horse named holiday promise who ran his best race of his life, in the spiral stakes on a synthetic track. why wouldnt pletcher put shanghai in the spiral stakes ? orientate is the dam sire, he did his best work as a sprinter. are we sure that he can handle 10 furlongs ?
That Lucky horse ran a super race. What troubled me was the jockey switch. It obviously paid off, not so much for Lopez who switched to Bern Identity and didn't come close to his expectations. But you often wonder about those switchs. I still went with Lucky as his numbers still had him among the top 3 in the field and improving.
Too early to speculate with Derby possibles with the new system. Let´s wait for the Championship series to start doing so. anyways I´m rooting for Goldencents and Shanghai Bobby (Harlan´s Holyday descendants).
Tired of Pletcher and his oh so optimistic statements for the breeding public, and his training regimen. This horse, bobby, has a much chance to win the derby as Triniberg did last year. Go to the front and try to hang on to victory, it ain't working now and hasn't in a good long time. Go back to the days of racing for stamina, breeding for stamina and winning triple crown. This is becoming a joke.
For this new point system to work, what Churchill needs to look at doing in future years is encourage tracks to bunch up their major prep races closer together (perhaps in 2014 where they are 12, 9, 6 and then three weeks before the Derby with the idea of eventually having them 8, 6, 4 and two weeks before the Derby) with additional points for starting in each round of preps, and bonus points based on number of rounds of preps started and best overall finish, with first preference for entry to the Derby going to horses who raced in all four rounds of prep races/best overall finish. This would discourage trainers and owners from skipping preps and long term I think cut down on the injuries we have seen from horses who in my view don't race enough (similar to the "babying" of pitchers in baseball where we have seen an increase in injuries ever since)..
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