With nearly every eye at Pimlico fixated on either the uncatchable leader, Oxbow, or the Kentucky Derby winner and heavy betting favorite, Orb, Itsmyluckyday cruised under the radar to earn a little bit of redemption in Saturday's Preakness.
After failing to challenge Orb on the muddy track at Churchill Downs two weeks ago and finishing near the back of the pack, Itsmyluckyday finished in second place in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.
"We did run our race, but we just weren't lucky enough to win," trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. said.
It might not have been a perfect ending — and it still wasn't Plesa's lucky day in a Triple Crown race — but Itsmyluckyday followed up his disappointing 15th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby with an impressive performance on an overcast evening at Pimlico Race Course.
Starting from the ninth gate, jockey John Velazquez, who replaced Elvis Trujillo on the mounts between the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, stayed on the outside as he steered Itsmyluckyday into the middle of the pack, where he hovered for much of the 1 3/16-mile race.
"It was a perfect trip," Velazquez said. "Broke well. Got a nice post position, where I wanted to be."
Coming around the final turn four-wide with Goldencents, Departing and Mylute, Itsmyluckyday pulled away from that pack and gradually closed on Oxbow, but he never seriously threatened as Oxbow won by nearly two length lengths.
Mylute made a late push, but Itsmyluckyday held off the hard-charging horse.
"My horse ran awesome," Velazquez said. "The speed didn't develop the way I thought it would. I thought Oxbow would be third or fourth, then all of a sudden I look up and Bob Baffert's horse [Govenor Charlie] gets left and Oxbow was on the lead all by himself. I worried about my horse, but he ran great."
Gary Stevens, the jockey for Oxbow, said he had expected Orb — and possibly Departing and Will Take Charge — to make a late run. But the closest contender ended up being Itsmyluckyday, who was the favorite to win the Florida Derby in late March but finished second to Orb.
"I couldn't believe that no one challenged me going into the far turn," Stevens said.
No one was catching Oxbow on this day, as he grabbed the early lead and never came close to relinquishing it as trainer D. Wayne Lukas won his record 14th Triple Crown race.
Still, it was a productive day for Itsmyluckyday, who is owned by Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa and trained by Eddie Plesa Jr. in Florida.
The horse entered Saturday with five wins in 11 career starts along with two seconds and a third. Plesa Jr. had to settle for second place at Pimlico, but he was "very pleased" with how Itsmyluckyday performed.
"He ran his race," Plesa Jr. said. "He simply just got beat by a horse that was trained perfectly by Wayne Lukas."
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