In football, the revered event is the Super Bowl. For baseball, it’s the World Series. For horse racing, it’s the Kentucky Derby (GI). The Breeders’ Cup gathers a variety of talented Thoroughbreds with unique abilities, but the Derby is certainly the most esteemed tradition in the sport of kings. Ask one who is unfamiliar with horse racing if they’ve heard of the Kentucky Derby and chances are, he or she will answer with a yes.
One of the most exciting times for horse racing is the beginning of the new year: a time when the two-year-olds become three-year-olds. Dreams for the first Saturday in May are formed and hopes are placed upon young Thoroughbreds. The prestigious race is still months away, but one cannot help but fantasize about which horse could become the next Kentucky Derby winner.
Itsmyluckyday has certainly made a case for himself as a top Derby contender. Though rather unpretentious as a juvenile, Itsmyluckyday has turned over a new leaf as a sophomore.
Runner-up in his debut at Monmouth Park, Itsmyluckyday found his best stride in his second outing, breaking his maiden on the New Jersey track by two lengths, drawing clear in the late stages of the race. Following a third-place finish in the Tyro Stakes, Itsmyluckyday shipped south to Calder, where he captured a pair of black-type races – one of which was run over a sloppy track – by a combined 7 lengths.
Journeying to Louisiana for a run in the Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes (GIII), Itsmyluckyday crossed the wire a lackluster sixth, but his chances may have been harmed by the bullring track, a course some horses do not have an affinity for. A return to Florida also saw Itsmyluckyday tackle the turf when the colt faced nine adversaries in the Dania Beach Stakes. Although he did not garner a victory, Itsmyluckyday showed improvement from his previous start, displaying a notable turn of foot to finish fourth.
Itsmyluckyday’s trend of progress continued, as evident when he revisited the dirt, contesting in the Gulfstream Park Derby. Competing over a one-turn mile, the Eddie Plesa trainee settled off the front-running assembly for a brief period before accelerating between horses to race in second, galloping just behind the leader, who was setting very brisk fractions. With minimal asking from Paco Lopez, the dark-colored colt accelerated around the far turn, obtaining the lead as the field rounded the bend. As Lopez glanced behind him to note the threat of competition, the rider sensed that no real menace towards he and his mount existed. Itsmyluckyday drifted toward the center of the stretch as the Thoroughbreds entered the straightaway, but the Eisaman Equine graduate was clearly the best competitor, effortlessly posting a 6 ¾-length victory.
The Holy Bull Stakes (GIII) twenty-five days later served as Itsmyluckyday’s most difficult test to date. Joining Itsmyluckday in the starting gate for the mile and one-sixteenth test at Gulfstream were nine rivals, including the 2012 Champion Two-Year-Old Male Shanghai Bobby, as well as a graded stakes winner, two graded stakes-placed runners, a stakes winner, and three stakes-placed runners. Itsmyluckyday found a comfortable stalking position in third, rating off the pacesetters as the field rounded the clubhouse turn. Racing on the outside with Elvis Trujillo aboard, the colt inched closer to the lead as the backstretch gave way to the final curve.
Within just a handful of strides, Itsmyluckyday became even with champion Shanghai Bobby, passing him at the quarter pole and appearing prepared to gallop further ahead once the field arrived in the homestretch. Though he required vigorous asking to surpass Shanghai Bobby, once clear of the champion, Trujillo resorted to a hand-ride, coasting to a 2-length triumph and registering a new track record of 1:41.81. Itsmyluckyday’s final time was the fastest mile and one-sixteenth running of the Holy Bull since 1994, when Go for Gin captured the race when it was named the Preview Stakes. Go for Gin would go on to win the Kentucky Derby.
A simple glance at Itsmyluckyday’s pedigree may create doubt concerning the colt’s ability to be successful at classic distances. But a thorough study of his ancestry suggests that, though he is not exactly bred for a race like the St. Leger, Itsmyluckyday could excel at ten furlongs.
Itsmyluckyday’s ill-fated sire, Lawyer Ron, was a top contender in the 2006 Kentucky Derby, blazing through Arkansas prior to finishing twelfth in the Run for the Roses. This may be discouraging, but Lawyer Ron – winner of several nine-furlong races, including a pair of grade ones, one in which he set a track record – finished a very game second in the ten-furlong Jockey Club Gold Cup Handicap (GI) behind Curlin, crossing the wire just a neck behind the eventual two-time Horse of the Year after a taxing stretch duel.
Tragically, Lawyer Ron died after his second season at stud, leaving Itsmyluckyday to be a member of Lawyer Ron’s second and final crop. The 2007 Champion Older Male’s offspring have primarily shone as sprinters and milers, but his son, Stealcase, won the nine-furlong Ontario Derby (GIII), drawing off in a manner much like Itsmyluckyday that suggested he could be triumphant at longer distances.
Lawyer Ron’s sire, Langfuhr, was a champion sprinter that has produced runners of the same type, but also the likes of Wando, winner of the 2003 Canadian Triple Crown – which presents races of the same distances as the American Triple Crown. Other successful distance horses sired by Langfuhr include Jambalaya – a multiple grade one winner who won at or beyond ten furlongs on several occasions; Interpatation – a grade one winner at twelve furlongs; Marlang – a Canadian classic winner at twelve furlongs; and Gangbuster – a stakes winner at thirteen furlongs that was also stakes-placed at fourteen furlongs.
Worry regarding Itsmyluckyday’s ability to be victorious at classic distances may also be created due to his broodmare sire, Doneraile Court, a graded stakes-winning miler. But Doneraile Court is a son of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, a proven stamina influence in the pedigree of American Thoroughbreds. In fact, Seattle Slew can be found in the bloodlines of three of the past five Belmont Stakes (GI) winners. Doneraile Court himself produced Cocoa Beach, a multiple grade/group one winner that won the UAE Oaks (GIII) at about 9.5 furlongs.
Doneraile Court is too young to have much of a record as a broodmare sire, though he has also produced the dam of another talented three-year-old, the graded stakes-winning Circle Unbroken. But Doneraile Court’s sire, the great Seattle Slew, has proven to be an outstanding broodmare sire of distance horses, such as Astra, Boboman, Dangerous Midge, Hearthstead Maison, and Offlee Wild.
Itsmyluckyday’s black-type-placed dam, Viva La Slew, never won beyond a mile, but her damsire, Crafty Prospector, finished a narrowly-beaten second in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (GI) when it was run at ten furlongs. Crafty Prospector, though chiefly effective with horses that ran at distances between seven and nine furlongs, also yielded distance horses, including the multiple group one-winning Japanese champion Agnes Digital – winner at approximately ten furlongs on several occasions.
Notably, the sire of Itsmyluckyday’s stakes-winning third dam, Viva Sec, is the legendary Secretariat. The brilliant 1973 Triple Crown winner has served as a strong stamina influence, one example being his daughter Weekend Surprise, the dam of A.P. Indy and Summer Squall.
Interestingly, Itsmyluckyday has a Rasmussen Factor – or inbreeding to a superior mare – to Secretariat’s dam, Somethingroyal. The broodmare sire of Lawyer Ron, the late champion Lord Avie, is a grandson of Sir Gaylord – a half-brother to Secretariat – through his sire, Lord Gaylord. Sir Gaylord, the third foal out of Somethingroyal, was an incredible sire, producing the likes of Epsom Derby winner Sir Ivor, as well as the dam of the multiple grade one-winning millionaire Track Barron. The trace of Somethingroyal in Itsmyluckyday’s dam side is, of course, found through his third dam. Other horses that have a Rasmussen Factor to Somethingroyal include not only the champion juvenile Declan’s Moon, but the distance horses Union Avenue – graded stakes winner at 9.5 furlongs; High Blues – stakes-placed at thirteen furlongs; and Church Service – graded stakes- and stakes-placed at distances at or beyond twelve furlongs and a steeplechase winner at seventeen furlongs.
Itsmyluckyday is also a striking physical specimen, being a very well-balanced individual. His short, strong topline makes a smooth transition from loin to croup, yielding a round, muscular hip. Not only does the bay colt possess impressive muscularity, but he presents an overall smooth appearance. His conformation serves as a reflection of his rich ancestry, which combined with the right connections, has allowed Itsmyluckyday – owned by Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa – to become a brilliant athlete. For a conformation photo of Itsmyluckyday, please click here.
The new “points system” for the Derby Trail may complicate Itsmyluckyday’s path to Louisville, but should he continue to show the improvement and talent he has exhibited, he could continue to prove himself as a top contender for the most anticipated race of the year. He will have to conquer possible distance limitations and the qualifying system, but Itsmyluckyday has shown the potential to be a prominent candidate for the 139th Kentucky Derby.