It was a two-horse race at Saratoga on Saturday evening, with Itsmyluckyday just getting up by a half-length over a resilient Moreno in the Grade 1, $600,000 Woodward Stakes.
As he did in his Whitney score, Moreno got the early lead, but not far behind was the eventual winner and his jockey, Paco Lopez. After fractions of :24.01, :47.41, and 1:10.94, the two dueled from the far turn all the way to the wire, finishing well ahead of Prayer for Relief in third.
A steward's inquiry was lodged, reviewing the stretch run, but no change was made to the order of finish.
The final time for the mile and an eighth was 1:48.84.
Itsmyluckyday paid $7.70, $3.70, and $3.00. Moreno was $4.20 and $3.00 to place, and Prayer for Relief paid $6.00 to show.
“My horse is a great horse,” said Lopez after his Woodward victory.
Itsmyluckyday was one of the better horses of his crop last year, finishing second to Oxbow in the Preakness Stakes, but took a big step up this year, scoring three straight stakes wins after a fourth-place finish behind Palace Malice in the Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 8. Last time out, he was second to Moreno in the Whitney Handicap.
Trainer Eddie Plesa, Jr. has saddled the colt to nine wins out of 19 starts.
“It's like when you have a child that does something out of the ordinary, exceptional, that you know he could do; that's what it felt like,” Plesa said. “I mean, horses aren't your children, but we take great pride in our horses; we take great pride in our craft. He did what he needed to do in a manner nobody would dispute was spot on or that he was the best horse today.”
It was the first Grade 1 win for the 4-year-old colt.
“This isn't a usual stop for me. I'm New Jersey and Florida,” said Plesa. “If you have something out of the ordinary, you'll bring them up here, but it's kind of my background. I'd rather be a big fish in a smaller pond than a small fish in a big pond. But when you have a horse like this, he takes you to wherever the big races are.
“I told the owners, the partners, 'Get tied on. This is going to be as exciting a second half of the year as last year was the first half of the year.' So, between last year's first half and this year's second half, we're going to have a great year.”
Owned by Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa, Itsmyluckyday was bred in Kentucky by Liberation Farm and Brandywine Farm. He is by Lawyer Ron, who died in 2009, and out of the Doneraile Court mare Viva La Slew. He sold for $47,000 as a yearling at Keeneland September in 2011 before being purchased out of the Eisaman Equine consignment at the OBS two year olds in training sale in March 2012 for $110,000.
Moreno very nearly pulled off a Whitney-Woodward sweep, a feat that hasn't been accomplished since Lawyer Ron won the pair of Grade 1 races in 2007.
“Our horse got bounced up, bam-bam-bam,” said Moreno's trainer, Eric Guillot. “Who knows? The horse ran his race. Sometimes you run second, sometimes you win. It was Eddie [Plesa's] turn. My horse is consistent. He ran his race. What are you going to do? Go to bed, rest, get up in the morning and start all over again.”
Zivo finished fourth, followed by Stephanoatsee, Last Gunfighter, Long River, Romansh, and Norumbega. Micromanage was scratched from the race.
View the full Equibase chart here.
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