06/14/2013 12:37PM

Steve Klein: Itsmyluckyday best option in Pegasus

Barbara D. Livingston
Itsmyluckyday, second to Oxbow in the Preakness, has already shown he can run well at Monmouth Park, site of Sunday's Pegasus Stakes.

The last time Verrazano and Itsmyluckyday raced against each other was in the Kentucky Derby. Verrazano stayed closer to the fast early pace that day than Itsmyluckyday did, but still finished one position, and 6 1/2 lengths ahead of him.

But how significant is that comparison when the Derby was run on a sloppy track, and neither of those horses ran races that even vaguely resemble their best recent form?

We should have a better handle on their relative merits following the running of the 1 1/16-mile, Grade 3, $150,000 Pegasus at Monmouth Park on Sunday.

Verrazano was undefeated coming into the Derby, but starting with his win going a mile in a first-level optional $75,000 claiming race in his second start, his Beyers and victory margins both shrank with each additional half-furlong he was asked to run. His last race prior to the Derby was a three-quarters of a length win over Normandy Invasion, with a 95 Beyer, in the Wood Memorial. That was his lowest number since the 93 he earned in his debut. With that downward trend in mind, and after factoring in the fast pace, and the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Derby, Verrazano’s 14th-place finish, and 81 Beyer aren’t a big surprise.

I expect Verrazano to run a much better race while cutting back to 1 1/16 miles, with less pace pressure in this seven-horse field, and after a six-week rest.

Itsmyluckyday probably didn’t like the sloppy track at Churchill nearly as much as he cared for the sloppy track he won on last year at Calder. But it hardly matters. The explanation for his poor Derby try is no longer important because Itsmyluckyday has already proven that his poor performance was a fluke. He raced wide and ran a nice race to finish second, only 1 3/4 lengths behind Oxbow in the Preakness. His only other loss on a fast track this year was his second-place finish behind Orb in the Florida Derby. He likes Monmouth with a win and a second from two starts on this main track.

A speed bias could change things, but I would rather choose Itsmyluckyday to win this race based on his strong form on fast tracks, than hope that Verrazano rebounds strongly enough to beat him. Verrazano should be able to complete this exacta, but that won’t stop me from taking a chance on a small exacta using the improving longshot Gefest as a value play for second, and also for third behind Itsmyluckyday and Verrazano in the trifecta.

Desert Stormer: Edge to Teddy’s Promise

The six-furlong, $70,000 Desert Stormer is the feature race at Betfair Hollywood Park on Sunday.

Horses with early and tactical speed have done best in one-turn races at Hollywood.

Include Me Out has lots of talent, but her last seven races were route races going 1 1/16 miles, and 1 1/8 miles. I’m leaning toward the idea that she won’t be ready for a top try going six furlongs in her return from a 7 1/2-month layoff. She’s usually a closer in sprint races.

Via Villaggio has been on the sidelines for nearly eight months. She’s capable of winning with one of her better efforts, and it’s encouraging to see that she shows a good 47.80-second half-mile workout at Hollywood. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has won 25 percent of his races overall, but it’s a concern that he has won just 12 percent of 59 starts with horses who are returning from breaks of six months and longer, with a subpar $1.27 return on investment.

Teddy’s Promise has won 3 of her last 4 races, and 5 of 9 on this main track, with one second-place finish. She was the comfortable winner of the $85,000 Time to Leave here six weeks ago. She has trained well since that victory, and can repeat if she continues on the upswing, or if Include Me Out and Via Villaggio need this race. Her early and tactical speed will boost her chances.

I will bet Teddy’s Promise to win, and use her on top in the exacta over Via Villaggio, and Winding Way, who won her first three races last year, then finished last of four in October as the 1-5 favorite in the $98,000 L.A. Woman. She owns a solid work tab for her return.