The year's first derby produced an upset as Itsmyluckyday drew off late to win Tuesday's $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby by 6 3/4 lengths.
Even so, trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. said he isn't getting too excited -- yet.
Sr. Quisqueyano was second in the South Florida event, another 5 1/2 lengths in front of Undrafted. The favorite, Canadian shipper Star Contender, was never in the mix and finished last of six.
Itsmyluckyday, a Lawyer Ron colt, finished 1 mile on a fast track in 1:34.39 with Paco Lopez in the irons.
"This horse has been training great," Plesa said, admitting he has a "surface controversy" with the colt. "Paco thinks this horse is better on the turf and still thinks he's better on the turf. I have a problem with that. I know how good he's been training. He loves the dirt."
While the win puts his colt into the mix of Kentucky Derby contenders, Plesa said he isn't getting overexcited just yet about the rest of the spring. "I don't get Derby Fever until at least April," he said.
Either the Jan. 26 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream or the Feb. 2 Sam Davis at Tampa Bay Downs is likely to be the next start, he added.
Other new 3-year-olds to watch at Gulfstream: Bradester, winner of an entry-level allowance Tuesday for trainer Eddie Kenneally; and Verrazano, who won his first start Tuesday for Todd Pletcher by better than 7 lengths. The latter is a half-brother to El Padrino but Pletcher said he is "even more impressive."
On Monday, Sunbean was engaged all the way through the $105,000 Louisiana Futurity for state-bred 2-year-olds at Fair Grounds but survived the battles to win by 1/2 length over Heitai. Nubin Ridge came from well back to get show money. Sunbean, a Brahms colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.68 with Colby Hernandez up. It was just his second career start, following a second-place effort in a maiden event over the same course three weeks ago.
Kauai Katie bounced back from her fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup to authoritatively win Tuesday's $100,000 Old Hat Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Gulfstream Park. After tracking a good early pace, the Malibu Moon filly quickly surged to the lead and kicked clear, winning by 8 lengths. Cor Cor finished second and Power Lady was third. Kauai Katie, with John Velazquez aboard, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.66. "I'm not surprised at all," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "She's a very good filly. She's probably at her best at a little shorter distance than we tried in the Breeders' Cup. Honestly, I don't think she really handled the track that day, because as fast as she is, she was never pulling herself along. She's probably better sprinting but I'm not positive she liked the track that day."
Sittin At the Bar sat behind the pace in Monday's $105,000 Louisiana Futurity for state-bred juvenile fillies at Fair Grounds, advanced four wide into the lane and closed like an odds-on favorite should, winning by 2 1/4 lengths over I Dare U Em. Taralicious finished third. Sittin At the Bar, a daughter of Into Mischief, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.46 with Mark Guidry riding. She now has three wins, a second and a third from six starts, including a third-place showing in the Grade III Delta Downs Princess.
In her last race as a 2-year-old, Miss Da Point didn't miss a beat in Monday's $80,000 Our Shopping Spree Stakes for New York-bred misses at Aqueduct. The Strong Contender filly led all the way and drew off late to win by 4 1/2 lengths. Eyes of Midas was second and the odds-on favorite, Agilion, was third, a head farther back. Miss Da Point, with Irad Ortiz Jr. up, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on the fast inner track in 1:45.02. She now has two wins from six starts for trainer John Toscano Jr.
Called to Serve rallied to the lead four-wide in Monday's $100,000 Broad Brush Stakes and quickly took charge, winning off by 5 3/4 lengths. Eighttofasttocatch, the early leader, wasn't and settled for second, 5 lengths better than Hughs Next. Called to Serve, a 3-year-old Afleet Alex gelding, ran the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:50.75 with Joel Rosario in the irons. Trainer Nick Canani said he has big plans for Called to Serve's 4-year-old season. "He's really only getting better," Canani said. "He's really growing up and he's learning how to be a real racehorse. He is a very versatile horse and the longer they go the better he is." The trainer said Called to Serve's next start will be in the Grade I Donn Handicap at Gulfstream or the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap or Grade II Strub Stakes at Santa Anita.
Tuttipaesi made her first American start a winning one, charging from far back to take Tuesday's $75,000 Ginger Brew Stakes for newly turned 3-year-old fillies by 2 lengths over Wave Theory. Discreet Marq finished third while the favorite, Corporate Culture, faded in the lane and finished ninth. The 6 furlongs on a fast track went in 1:09.66. Tuttipaesi, an Irish-bred daughter of Clodovil, raced last year in Europe before shipping in the fall. "She came over to run in the Alcibiades at Keeneland (on Oct. 5)," said trainer Graham Motion. "But she got sick in quarantine and didn't get to run. She came with the reputation of being a bit flighty, but was well-behaved today. We didn't really do anything with her until we got her down here to Palm Meadows. I've been impressed with the way she's trained, so I wasn't surprised she ran well today."
Merit Man dueled his way to the lead in Tuesday's $100,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes for 3-year-olds, then held off City of Weston to win the 6-furlong sprint by 3/4 length. Little Distorted finished third. Merit Man, a With Distinction colt, got home in 1:11.39 under Joel Rosario.
Nicole H took over when jockey Ramon Dominguez found her running room in Tuesday's $75,000 Interborough Handicap for fillies and mares and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths, ridden out. Mildly Offensive was second and Singlet finished third. Nicole H, a 6-year-old Mr. Greeley mare, ran 6 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:11.01. She now has won three straight runnings of this race.
Arena Elvira got to the lead in the lane in Tuesday's $75,000 Ladies Handicap, than was all out to hold on by a neck over R Gypsy Gold. Silver Prize finished far back in third and Villanesca completed the order of finish. Arena Elvira, a 6-year-old Ghostzapper mare, finished 9 furlongs on the inner track in 1:51.53 with Junior Alvarado riding.
Sky High Gal stalked the pace early in Tuesday's $75,000 Blue Norther Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, opened a short lead early in the stretch run and hung on to win a four-way battle to the wire. Scarlet Strike finished second by a nose. Wittgenstein was another nose back in third and Escape Act was yet another neck in arrears in fourth. Sky High Gal is a Kentucky-bred daughter of Leroidesanimaux out of the Sky Classic mare Shahrazad Sky. She ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.22 with Julien Leparoux up. "She's got a lot of potential," said winning trainer John Sadler. "She's going to get a lot better as we get a little further into it. We'll keep her on the grass here for a while and then look at synthetic maybe a little later on."
Az Ridge tracked the early pace in Monday's $35,000 Luke Kruytbosch Stakes, took the lead when asked and won 1 1/4 lengths over Why Frank. Mysterious Soul finished third. Az Ridge, a 3-year-old Toccet gelding, completed 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.77 with Kelly Bridges up. The race is named after the late race caller who worked at Turf Paradise, Churchill Downs, Hollywood Park and other tracks until his death in 2008.