By Jim Freer
Monday, Sept. 29 — After a rare summer’s absence, trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. is bringing his stable back to South Florida.
Since this May he has kept all of his horses, now numbering 42, at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J.
Plesa did not leave any horses in South Florida because he was concerned that Gulfstream Park and Calder Casino & Race Course might continue their head-to-head weekend racing. The two tracks ended that competition July 1 – too late for Plesa to change his plans for the Monmouth meet that ran from May 10 until this past Sunday.
Today, Plesa and his barn crew put 38 horses on vans to Calder in Miami Gardens with scheduled arrival on Tuesday. Four horses will stay behind at least temporarily to race at tracks in the northeast.
“It will be good to get back home and see Calder more like it used to be,” Plesa said in a phone interview Friday from Monmouth Park.
On Wednesday Oct. 8, Calder will begin a 40-day race meet that Gulfstream is conducting under a lease agreement. A story later this week will have details on refurbishing that Gulfstream has been doing in Calder’s stable area and the ground floor of its racing building.
During summers, Plesa has traditionally stabled some horses at Calder and some at Monmouth. During other months, he has been stabled solely at Calder (until last year) and then at Gulfstream in Hallandale Beach.
For the past two decades, he has been among the leaders in the trainers’ standings at Monmouth and at Calder.
This year he was first in earnings with $1,148,820 in the Monmouth meet, His 34 wins placed him second behind Jorge Navarro who had 43.
Gulfstream and Calder, just eight miles apart, raced head-to-head on weekends from July 2013 through this past June.
By going to Monmouth, Plesa felt his horses’ owners would avoid the head-to-head prospects of more purse cuts and stakes cancellations at Calder and schedule changes at Gulfstream.
“I expect they will get this settled and that I will be back here next summer (2015),” Plesa said in May.
On July 1, the two tracks announced an agreement that immediately ended the head-to-head racing. With that accomplished, Plesa is considering having only a limited presence at Monmouth next summer.
Plesa and his wife Laurie live in Plantation. She is a part owner of several horses that Eddie trains, including their 4-year-old star Itsmyluckyday.
Plesa will arrive in South Florda in time for the final weekend of Gulfstream’s summer meet.
The July 1 agreement puts Gulfstream and its parent The Stronach Group in charge of racing at Calder through 2020. Churchill Downs Inc. continues to own Calder, including its racing operations, and continues to manage its casino. Gulfstream is calling the racing that begins Wednesday the Gulfstream Park West meet and is not using the Calder name in any of its promotional materials.
The Gulfstream at Calder meet will be run Wednesdays through Sundays until Nov, 30. It will have 23 stakes races, whose total purses will be $1.775 million.
Breeders’ Cup Prospects
Once Plesa settles back in at Calder, one big decision will be whether to run Itsmyluckyday in a Breeders’ Cup race at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif.
He is considering the son of Lawyer Ron for the $1 million Dirt Mile (Grade 1) on Oct. 31 or the $5 million Classic (Grade 1) on Nov. 1.
Itsmyluckyday would come into a Breeders’ Cup race after finishing a disappointing third in the one-mile Kelso Sakes (Grade 2) last Saturday at Belmont Park.
For the Breeders’ Cup, Itsmyluckyday’s owners would have to pay a late nomination fee of $100,000 for either race.
Those owners are Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa, Trilogy’s partners are David and Olga Melin, who live in Sunny Isles Beach, and Marion Montanari who lives in Ocala.
Itsmyluckyday has won nine of his 20 starts and has career earnings of $1,702,000.
His wins include this year’s Woodward Stakes (Grade 1) at Saratoga and last year’s Holy Bull (Grade 3) at Gulfstream.
Plesa said he plans to run his promising 2-year-old colt Souper Colossal in the 1 1/16 mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Grade 1) on Nov. 1.
Souper Colossal, a Kentucky-bred, has won all three of his starts. His most recent win was in the one-mile Sapling Stakes at Monmouth on Aug. 31. He is a son of War Front and is owned by Live Oak Plantation.
Plesa also is optimistic about his 2-year-old colt Mr. Jordan. On Sept. 14 at Monmouth, Mr. Jordan won his debut at 5 1/2 furlongs by 6 1/4 lengths.
Mr. Jordan is a son of Kantharos, a highly successful Florida-based sire, and is eligible for the Florida Sire Stakes Series.
Plesa said he plans to run Mr. Jordan in the $350,000 In Reality, the 1 1/16 mile third leg of the series, at Gulfstream on Oct. 4.
Mr. Jordan is owned by David Melin, Leon Ellman and Laurie Plesa
Paco Lopez is the regular rider of Itsmyluckyday and Souper Colossal, and he rode Mr. Jordan in his first start.
He led the recent Monmouth meet with 120 victories, and rode the majority of Plesa’s winners.