The only horse to hit the wire ahead of reigning champion 3-year-old Maximum Security will make his 4-year-old debut with high expectations at Tampa Bay Downs.
Rick Sacco, racing manager for owner/breeder Red Oak Stable, said King for a Day is targeting the Grade 3, $100,000 Challenger Stakes to kick off his season. The March 7 event runs at 1 1/16 miles on the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) undercard.
King for a Day has revved back up with a trio of five-furlong breezes at trainer Todd Pletcher’s winter base, Florida’s Palm Beach Downs. Most recently, he was clocked at 1:00.17 on Sunday.
“He went out the mile in 1:43 all by himself,” Sacco said. “That’s where we want him to be right now. He’s strong, he’s happy, and he’s switching his leads.”
By Uncle Mo, King for a Day has been handled patiently by his connections, first sitting out the Triple Crown series having experienced growing pains at age 2. He became a stakes winner on the Preakness undercard, winning the Sir Barton in his 3-year-old bow before upsetting Maximum Security in Monmouth Park’s Pegasus Stakes.
Sacco describes King for a Day’s follow up in the Haskell Invitational (G1) as a “debacle.”
“The horse just came into the paddock dead on his feet,” he said. “It looked like he’d run already. It was an unfortunate situation with the heat.”
High temperatures forced Monmouth to axe much of its card and push featured stakes back into the evening. While, yes, every horse dealt with the same conditions, Sacco said King for a Day wasn’t as well acclimated having shipped in from Saratoga.
King for a Day went from running head and head with Maximum Security through 3/4 of a mile to finishing fifth of six.
“We just didn’t handle the heatwave in that race, and unfortunately we lost our action before the quarter pole and the horse hit himself,” Sacco said. “We gave him all the necessary time to come back. Physically, the horse looks awesome.
“We’re going to go one race at a time and let the horse dictate it. Obviously we have a plan. This is a very important race for us on March 7. We’ll see how he comes out of it.”