07/06/2014 6:03PM

Itsmyluckyday continues revival by taking Salvator Mile

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Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Itsmyluckyday, under Paco Lopez, collects his third straight victory in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - Itsmyluckyday cocked his head to the right in deep stretch, as if to acknowledge the grandstand crowd on Sunday at Monmouth Park

“Yes, I’m back,” he seemed to be saying.  “And by the way, I’ve got this Salvator Mile wrapped up.”

Itsmyluckyday extended his winning streak to three with a 1 1/2-length victory over Bradester in the Grade 3, $160,500 Salvator.

The win was another building block in the comeback that trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. hopes will carry Itsmyluckyday to the top level of the handicap division.

Itsmyluckyday was a leading 3-year-old last season, the runner-up in both the Florida Derby and the Preakness. The campaign ended abruptly when Itsmyluckyday suffered a pelvic injury here in the Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes. He endured a prolonged period of enforced stall rest as the damage healed.

The Salvator was his fourth race back. He had the misfortune of encountering Palace Malice in his return, the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap in March.

Itsmyluckyday was fourth that day, not a bad effort against the acknowledged leader of the division.

“When you look at that race, and dissect that race, it was not a bad effort on his part,” Plesa said. “We’ve built from that race. We’re taking it one step at a time. There is no doubt in my mind he’s a quality horse, never has been. I think he’s proven that each and every time he gets on the racetrack.”

Since Gulfstream Park Handicap, Itsmyluckyday won the Best of the Rest at Gulfstream, the Majestic Light at Monmouth, and now the Salvator.

The latest was unquestionably the toughest challenge the three.

“It was another test and he passed it with an A-plus,” Plesa said.

The Salvator trip wasn’t an easy. Into the first turn, Itsmyluckyday had plenty of company.

“He was laying fourth behind a wall of horses,” Plesa said. “He didn’t panic. He did what he was supposed to do.”

Approaching the final bend, Paco Lopez angled Itsmyluckyday into the three-path for a wide trip all the way to the top of the lane.

Itsmyluckyday then wrested the lead from Bradester and Valid in upper stretch.

He was on his way, except for that unexpected lurch to the right.

“He might have been looking for Paco to pull him up, like he did in the last two races,” Plesa said. “It’s a bad thing to do. Am I blaming Paco? No. Are you going to see Paco do that again, like he did in the two previous races? Absolutely not.”

Plesa said the next target will be the Grade 2, $200,000 Monmouth Cup on July 27, part of the Haskell Invitational undercard.

The time was 1:34.88 on the fast track under warm, sunny skies. Itsmyluckyday paid $4.40 to win.

Valid was third followed by Don Dulce, Code West, Raging Daoust (last year’s Salvator winner), Dawly, Sailor’s Revenge, and Elnaawi.