Itsmyluckyday has won two races this year, both happen to be stakes races, and both happen to be at Gulfstream Park. What they also have in common is that they both were stepping stones for the Kentucky Derby, and in both races Itsmyluckyday has defeated odds on favorites. In yesterdays’ Holly Bull Stakes, the favorite was the two year old undefeated champion Shanghai Bobby. Who ran well in defeat considering that he was coming off a three month layoff, and was only beaten two lengths off Itsmyluckyday, who set the track record, stopping the clock at 1:41.81.
Trained by Edward Plesa Jr., and rode by Elvis Trulillo, the son of multiple G1 winner Lawyer Ron earned a 104 Beyer Speed Figure for the race. The gaudy speed figure is notable for multiple reasons, one being that the legitimacy of the fields for Triple Crown races are based on speed figures, and the other being for handicapping purposes and knowing when to double down on your bet because you know your getting fair value.
First of all, it should be explained that in horse racing speed figures are important because time isn’t. What that means is, due to varying circumstances, every track has their own specific features that can change what the final times mean. For example, on a cold winter day at Parx, with a super fast rail, a low level claiming race could produce a time of 1:08.40, whereas a Grade 1 race on a muggy day at Saratoga can produce that same figure. Now, if the winners of both those races went up against each other, who would you put your money on? I think that explains it well enough.
So in terms of speed figures legitimizing the three year old class, consider that last year it wasn’t until April, when Bodemeister ran a 108 figure in the Arkansas Derby that gave the Derby a legitimate favorite. In the Holy Bull, not only did Itsmyluckyday run big, but Shanghai Bobby probably got a 100 for the race, so given that it is still January, that is very strong.
The second reason is that the speed figures have a way of quantifying the horses performance as it relates to form. Much like technical analysis in the stock market, the study of these speed figures have uncovered patterns equally for consistency, and anomaly. For example, in the case of Itsmyluckyday, his race prior to the Gulfstream Park Derby (in which he earned a 95) was a turf race where he got a 77. So for anyone familiar with form cycles, and speed figures would conclude that the 18 point spike would expose that horse to what is known as a ‘bounce’, which is handicapping parlance for running flat after a big race. But being that it was a turf race, and Itsmyluckyday is clearly not a turf horse, for handicapping purposes that race could be considered a thrown out. Now if you go back to the first race of his form cycle which was the Delta Jackpot (a dirt race) back in November, he ran a 79; which legitimizes the subsequent 95, and 104 Beyers.
What also is legit is the 9-2 odds you got for a strong opinion, on a derby prep race, where dead money pours in on the popular favorite, even if he is not in form to run his best race.
As far as Itsmyluckyday, the real test will begin when he shows he can stretch out and run big past a mile and an eighth, his sire Lawyer Ron was excellent up to that distance, but never won at the ‘classic’ distance of a mile and a quarter.