01/28/2013 4:05PM

Gulfstream Park: Holy Bull top two to skip Fountain of Youth and await Florida Derby

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Barbara D. Livingston
Itsmyluckyday (left) came out of this upset victory over Shanghai Bobby "110 percent," said trainer Eddie Plesa Jr.

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.

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

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.”