Haskin's Derby Report: Oh, Happy Day

Each year, there is at least one horse you take an instant liking to; one that is easily accessible and has great presence and character. This year, that horse is Itsmyluckyday, who arrived at Churchill Downs as if he’d been there his entire life.

You always like to find that happy horse that stands out, and Itsmyluckyday is indeed a happy horse, thanks to the TLC he receives constantly from trainer Eddie Plesa Jr.; his wife Laurie, who is part-owner of the colt; and longtime assistant Frankie Perez and exercise rider Peter Shelton.

After three days, the son of Lawyer Ron has jogged once and galloped twice and has looked better each time, moving over the track with authority and showing all the signs of a horse ready for a peak performance. Whether that is good enough to beat these horses going a mile and a quarter is anyone’s guess, but there is no doubt he will give 100 percent. And we have already seen what his 100 percent is capable of in the Gulfstream Park Derby and Holy Bull Stakes.

What makes him stand out from a numbers standpoint is the fact that he ran a negative 1 1/2 on Thoro-Graph in the Gulfstream Derby, and instead of “bouncing” off that, as one would expect, he actually came back with a better number, running a negative 2 in the Holy Bull. Given two months off to freshen up and recharge the batteries, he was expected to be a bit short for the Florida Derby, and even though Orb ran right by him he still wound up running a “1” in the race, and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if the Derby isn’t run much faster than that. All he has to do is improve slightly off the Florida Derby and he’s right there.

It’s just a question whether he moves forward going 1 1/4 miles and whether you feel that not being wound fully tight for the Florida Derby accounted for his inability to withstand the closing surge of Orb.

What Itsmyluckyday has going for him is his toughness and competitiveness, and that is exactly what co-breeder Rob Whiteley had in mind when he bred the colt’s dam, Viva La Slew, to Lawyer Ron. Viva La Slew’s dam, Viva La Viva, who Whiteley also bred, is by Crafty Prospector, and Whiteley wanted to cross the tough Crafty Prospector with Lawyer Ron, who was as tough and competitive as any horse in memory. In Itsmyluckyday, he got exactly what he was hoping for.

Inside his stall, Itsmyluckyday is an easy-going, personable horse who is extremely approachable. But once he gets outside the stall and on the racetrack he is a tiger, who loves to train and compete.

If there is one thing that is fairly certain, Itsmyluckyday will be overlooked in the betting, and Plesa is fine with that. He says he’s more interested in having the media stop by after the race than before.

Itsmyluckyday heads to the track.

Itsmyluckyday generating good power in his gallop

Itsmyluckyday -- all class


As for today’s activity, Todd Pletcher sent his five Derby horses to the track and all galloped with the exception of Revolutionary, who just had a short jog and quickly exited well before the others. Overanalyze and Palace Malice, my two overlay specials, both galloped strongly. As mentioned earlier, Itsmyluckyday had another strong gallop and looked as good as anyone out there. Normandy Invasion continues his brisk gallops, and I have to mention one horse who has made great strides in the past week, and that is Black Onyx, who has been here some three weeks and appears to be thriving. He is looking stronger physically and galloping with more purpose, and in this crazy era of grass and synthetic horses running big in the Derby, who knows?



Palace Malice

Black Onyx is flourishing at Churchill

Golden Soul cuts it close, but is in the Derby


Leave a Comment:

steve from st louis

It's funny--we spend all winter and spring making a case for our favorites coming up to the Derby and it's usually down to Steve's "paddock pick" or the best-looking dude who has flourished in the days leading up to the race who have carried the day. I remember Haskin writing that Barbero was jumping out of his skin before his Derby romp or that Smarty Jones was sitting on go; how about Super Saver and Big Brown being standouts based on their pre-race attitude or that Animal Kingdom was hardly a surprise. I already have Oxbow-Revolutionary and Vyjack boxed in the second Derby pool and I've got a feeling I'll be well served having an Itsmyluckyday-Orb key on top of Palice Malice and Black Onyx. I'm starting to bet like my grandfather who would always rummage through his tickets once they hit the wire and invariably hold up the winning ticket. That's probably because he always bet the whole field, hoping for a Giacomo.

30 Apr 2013 4:52 PM

Thank you so much for doing such a wonderful article on my favorite horse. I have spoken to some of the officals at Gulfstream Park and Eddie Plesa, Jr., is a highly regarded, well liked trainer. They are all pulling for him and Itsmyluckyday. And then there is the Smarty Jones connection as Laurie Plesa's brother, John Servis, trained Smarty.

I'm hoping that he returns to his pre-Florida Derby form. And I am also rooting for Orb.

What I really like about the trainer, is that it's all about the horse and not about the Derby. And that's what Shug is all about too.

We need more trainers like those two in the game.

30 Apr 2013 5:06 PM

The son of Lawyer Ron owns a piece of my heart..thank you Steve I follow all his kids and it would make me very happy to see one of his kids get to carry the roses.He is classy!

30 Apr 2013 5:57 PM

It would make my day to see a son of Lawyer Ron win the roses..he owns a piece of my heart and will be on my tickets.

30 Apr 2013 5:59 PM

There's my Lucky!  Viva La Haskin and Viva La Whiteley!  I love the article and clever title too. I have been waiting for a report and visuals on Lucky and here it is.  I am so glad Lucky is a happy horse.  I am in agreement with Plesa, the media can descend upon them afterwards.  Lucky, like Orb has kind eyes and an alert look, they have the it factor to me.  I love it when they are benevolent off track and all business on track.  

Great headshots of Lucky you took Steve.  He seems to have Derby winner written all over him.  How great it would be to see Lucky leading the brigade down the stretch.  Rob bred a fine colt here and all I know that is one breeder who should not be out of business.  GO LUCKY!!!!!!!!

We all need a lucky, happy day.

30 Apr 2013 6:42 PM
Ida Lee

What a pretty and talented boy! I wish him the best for the Derby (although Verrazano is my Derby horse).  I also adored Lawyer Ron. That we lost him so soon and so unexpectedly was heartbreaking.

30 Apr 2013 6:59 PM

I also would love to see a son of Lawyer Ron win the Derby

30 Apr 2013 7:23 PM
Sail On

Again, love the photos. My favorite is Verrazano. Love his stride. He seems to float over the track.

Looks like there may be a new comer in the Derby. I think the cutoff should be 20 points. Too many also rans in the Derby this year, and not enough speed.

How many of these horses have a speed rating over 100?

30 Apr 2013 7:46 PM

This horse is a good bet,he could show up at a price.

30 Apr 2013 9:07 PM

Kentucky Derby Day.. what A day the long wait is here. the son of Lawyer Ron will be part of the exotic ticket but him winning it is a big "IF" one thing for sure it take more than just a happy horse to win a Kentucky Derby.. there will be support for the son of Lawyer Ron and why not, after all each of the contender has a shot to win the run for the roses..

30 Apr 2013 9:35 PM
Fran Loszynski

It's funny you should like It's my lucky day because I'm playing him for a friend of mine that is recuperatng from a heart attack--this colt has the killer instinct but love in his heart for humankind off the track. I want Normandy Invasion but a tear would come to my eye if It's my lucky day came in. I take a quote from the movie "Seabiscuit" he may be small but he is fearless.

30 Apr 2013 9:52 PM

It would be neat if the Derby ended up between Orb and Itsmyluckyday. How great would it be for two foes through the triple crown trail? It is such a big day I wish the best for all. That is a moment that will live forever in many hearts and minds. Just come home safe and bring home a check.

30 Apr 2013 9:54 PM


Although I've fallen hard for Revolutionary (I'm already making a list of names for yearlings), I could watch Orb and Itsmyluckyday for hours. It's so nice to see colts of such refinement and quality in every line and every motion, just when I was wondering if this was being bred out in favor of big body builders who might have a Charolais granddam.

Revolutionary is not as highly refined but he's no Arnold -- if he has some bull in him it's El Toro Bravo.

30 Apr 2013 11:22 PM
New Racing Fan


I have heard no one else suggest this, so let me be the first.  Post Positions should be chosen by the connections in order of point standings.  No longer would it be possible for a contender to be virtually eliminated by the Great Pill Pull.

Imagine if the undefeated Verrazano draws post 1, gets pinched, never has a chance in the derby but comes back to win the Preakness and Belmont.

If the connections of Giant Day want the experience of running in the derby, let them take post 1 and let them just be happy to be there and the race can't be ruined by eliminating a favorite on Wednesday.

This approach might also draw more horses and interest to prep races that will now not only get you in the race but determine your chance at a good post position.

Aren't there  people getting paid to think of these things?  If churchhill downs wants to send me a check give them my email address will you please.

01 May 2013 4:16 AM
Eric Rickard

This year could be a "Thunder Gulch " year. He ran poorly in his last race and was overlooked. I think Itsmyluckyday could do the same. He takes two months off and gets beat by a very good Orb who was in top form. The "Nay Sayers" point to the fact that his breeding is iffy at 1 1/4. I believe it was the lay off.

Not totally convinced. Waiting for the post positions.

Have a great weekend and hope to se you their!!

01 May 2013 7:52 AM

Being a bit of a racing novice, I'm sort of confused as to how a negative number (negative number?) on a Thoro-Graph, whatever that is, can be a good thing, I'll take your word for it.  I'm still sort of wondering what happened to the dosage numbers racing experts once talked about.  They seemed to be the "tell all" as to whether or not a horse could win the Derby? No one mentions them anymore. For me, Itsmyluckyday is the one because of the Doneraile Court/Seattle Slew connection. It's as simple as that. No horse had more courage, heart and a will to win than Seattle Slew had.  After his disastrous start in the Derby, he just bulled his way through the field.  He was not going to be denied; refused to be beaten.  That's enough for me. I'll go with that for Itsmyluckyday!!  

01 May 2013 8:38 AM
z girl

Draw your "Lines of Battle" in the "Normandy Invasion" everyone---I will play "My Lute" in my "Palace of Malice" done up in "Revolutionary" style over the "Verrazano" bridge and through my one good "Orb" see that my wisest and best choice on Kentucky Derby Day is to take all my "Goldencents" and declare to all.."Itsmyluckyday"!!!!!!

01 May 2013 9:38 AM

Please excuse my changing the subject, however, I am most curious if you are going to make a visit to Lane's End and Stonestreet while you are in Kentucky. I hope you will be visiting Queen Z and her two sons. Z13, out of Tapit, really reminds me of his paternal great great grandsire Secretariat. He stood up and nursed within a hour of being born. He is chestnut with three white feet and is very independent. I have the feeling that he looks right through you when he looks at the camera. Thanks in advance and enjoy a great Oaks and Derby. I'm so glad that you are in Ky this year, it's so special having your insightful articles and terrific photographs.

01 May 2013 10:29 AM

Does anyone believe in Black Magic? I am alittle bit leary that  there is a mojo cast from the Carribean, especially now that there is a question whether about Revolutionary. Goldencents might just win this thing. Yay mahn.

01 May 2013 11:07 AM
Melissa P

Eddie Plesa is a very, very nice man as well as being a superb conditioner. Dear friends of ours had a really nice stakes horse with Mr. Plesa (more than 20 years ago now). He brought their horse to the top of his ability and treated all of their friends like they were HIS friends. I'd love to see him in the winner's circle after the big one. He's more than deserving.

01 May 2013 11:43 AM

I have never seen so many Grade 3 "placed" horses running in the Derby in my life.  In my humble view, 1/2 this field has no shot in the Derby.  20 horse fields are crazy and Churchill really needs to cut it back to 14.....that is plenty.

01 May 2013 12:36 PM
Sail On

I love New Racing Fan's idea.

If this is done, and the field is limited to, say, 14 horses, then we would truly have a horse race.

01 May 2013 1:07 PM
Old Old Cat

New Racing Fan

Using points for post position makes all the sense in the world,  and it makes winning the qualifiers a little more meaningful.

01 May 2013 1:12 PM

I have a big soft spot in my heart for Itsmyluckyday.  Make that a huge one!  I wish I could say I have only ONE horse I'm loyal & devoted to this year as I was last year with I'll Have Another, but I can't.  I'm remarkably loyal to eight horses in this year's KY Derby.  But, I can say that I have supported Lucky, along with Goldencents, Revolutionary, Orb, Oxbow, Mylute and Vyjack - rain or shine - all throughout their campaigns the last nine months.  Of all of these horses, I feel that "Mother Hen" feeling the most for Lucky, where you support & encourage their efforts no matter what.  (I have that same feeling for I'll Have Another, Animal Kingdom, Royal Delta, Black Caviar, Charismatic, Silver Charm, Real Quiet & Invisible Ink (RIP), too.)

Lucky tries so hard, he gives his best effort for you all of the time.  I can't help but admire that, root for him and support his efforts.  I admire heart, and Lucky has heart.

So, I'm supporting Lucky, no matter what, in the Derby.  He features prominently in my plans for the race, along with the others above, in the Derby.  I think Lucky is fabulous!  I hope Lucky stays a little bit under the radar, though.  Orb has shown so brightly this week that he is now the favorite in the race.  Rats!  I hate that!  I was hoping he would continue to be a little bit overlooked by pundits this week.  I'm also pulling for Goldencents for many reasons:  I like Goldie, plain and simple; I really like Doug O'Neill - he's a great guy.  His horses adore him, and I think he got a raw deal from the media & some misguided fans last year.  It would be wonderful to see him enjoy a 2-Peat KY Derby victory; Kevin Krigger getting his shot at KY Derby glory, just as Mario Gutierrez did last year on I'll Have Another.  It would be totally awesome to see Kevin break that glass ceiling & win the race.  

I have way too many horses I love in this race.  It was so much easier for me at Derby time - it was IHA all the way! - LOL.  I'm hoping the Post Position draw today and the Post Parade Saturday afternoon will better solidify my choices for the Derby.

BTW - Very nice article, Steve.  You never disappoint & you're always knowledgeable and informative. I look forward to you column each & every week.  Thanks & take care!

01 May 2013 3:20 PM

Thanks Steve for writing about Lucky.  I was waiting to hear your thoughts. I have been leaning toward him but cannot decide.  **New racing fan, I agree that the post position draw should be based on the points earned...they should be allowed to choose their post based on their order on the list.  Don't know when it started, but up until a few years ago entrants chose their post position and it was based on the earnings list....the connections of the horse with the most money (number one on the list) got to choose first and so on until the last position left went to the last horse on the list with the lowest earnings.  I never heard why they stopped that but I loved it!

01 May 2013 3:36 PM

It'smyluckyday seems to be the forgotten horse.  But no one should underestimate him so badly.

I think we've got a powerhouse of a Derby field this year.  There are so many strong contenders, no one can choose just one without considering 5 others, and then maybe 6 more.

01 May 2013 7:39 PM
Stellar Jayne

It has warmed my old heart to see so many of you backing Itsmyluckyday, because he is Lawyer Ron's son.  He has a good pp and he looks fabulous!

But, I have a conflict in that I also favor Revolutionary who is by War Pass.  PP 3 will prove to be difficult.  The best I could hope for is a photo finish.

Java's War is another of my picks for sentimental reasons again - War Pass.  War Pass was marvelous to watch on the track.

I do think Shug M. has a real good shot with Orb. I think Vyjack will be right there with him.  With John V. on Verrazano it will be a hot race to the finish.

Good Luck to all!  May they all come home in one piece after the stampede!!

Thanks for the article and picture Steve.

01 May 2013 8:49 PM

Correction...my bad....the post position draw from 1998 through 2009 when the connections chose their post positions was not based on the horses earnings like I had previously been informed (although I think it should have been). I just looked it up and found that the connections drew numbers to determine the order in which they got to choose their post positions. The article said they stopped doing that due to declining TV ratings....not sure why they would make a change like that for such a reason though.  I thought it was much more exciting to watch when they got to choose and I feel like that should be allowed in a once in a lifetime race like this!

01 May 2013 10:43 PM

Sire Lawyer Rons performance in the slop in the 07 BC Classic doesnt inspire much confidence in My Lucky Days chances if the track comes up sloppy this Saturday.


01 May 2013 11:39 PM

I'm with New Racing Fan. Why did they stop the "rightful ly earned" post picks and go random?

Still, it won't keep me off Black Onyx. It's just that the way Oxbow had drawn most of his racing life, I hope that he doesn't think he's still breaking from post 10 going into the turn.

02 May 2013 9:28 AM

There is such an irony in the fact that horses with few points, who qualified only because of defections by more qualified horses, draw the most desirable gates.  And horses with a better than average chance of finishing well get stuck on the moon with their Post positions.

I think horses with few points, who decide to enter the last day should automatically get post #1 and #20.

I feel terrible for Black Onyx, Vyjack, and Java's War.  Even Oxbow who's not quite happy with the track got shafted by the post position.  Although he finally drew a post not on the far outside, he's now in gate #2, and you know Bo-rail may cut him off to get to the rail from gate #3.

02 May 2013 12:39 PM

Recent Posts



Social Media

More Blogs