Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®
Itsaknockout, Upstart, Others Well on Sunday
Trainer Todd Pletcher reported Sunday that Itsaknockout came out of his win of the Fountain of Youth Stakes in good order.
“He came out of it well. He looked good. We’ll see how he trains, but the logical thing would be to stay here and run in the Florida Derby,” Pletcher said.
Itsaknockout ran second but was moved up via disqualification of Upstart by track stewards.
“I hate winning in that situation. You always want to be the first one to cross the finish line," Pletcher said. "But we’ve been on both sides of that. It stings when you’re the winner and sometimes when you feel like you’ve been impeded and you don’t get put up. But I’m proud of the horse for what he was able to do, to run so well against a more seasoned horse says a lot about him and his quality. Hopefully, he can come back and keep moving forward.”
Pletcher said he can afford to be flexible with Itsaknockout.
“In those type of cases, we’ll try to approach it as we always have and do what’s best for each individual horse and each individual owner,” Pletcher said. “In Itsaknockout’s case, he got some points that will make it easier and put less pressure on him in the next one.”
Upstart’s trainer, Rick Violette, reported that the colt is “a little tired, but otherwise he’s OK.”
Violette, who again expressed his displeasure with the stewards’ ruling, noted that the racing surface was deeper and more tiring than usual Saturday.
“I wished the track could have been a little faster,” said Violette, whose colt was favored at 4-5. “It was a very tough day. It was a very dry humidity day with constant wind. It was an uphill battle, no doubt about it.”
While finishing 2 3/4 lengths clear of second-place finisher and official winner Itsaknockout, Upstart ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.28, almost three seconds slower than it took him to capture the Holy Bull on Jan. 24 with a brilliant performance that earned a 106 Beyer Speed Figure. Saturday’s performance received a 95 figure over the more tiring surface.
“That and the six pounds and the tiring racetrack – I think he probably did bounce a little bit and still managed to win,” said Violette, whose New York bred carried 122 pounds, six more than he carried in the Holy Bull and between four and six pounds more than Saturday’s rivals.
Violette said he won’t make a quick decision whether Upstart will run next in the Florida Derby or in other options elsewhere.
“It will be a constant evaluation. We know the options are there. We’ll take as much time as we need to decide,” he said.
Following Frammento’s much-improved third in the Fountain of Youth, trainer Nick Zito will also weigh his options concerning the next goal for the son of Midshipman. Zito said Frammento is fine the day after the race.
“A horse like this is on the peculiar side in that he's not that easy to train. Obviously he's got to run in one big race, if you have any aspirations for the Kentucky Derby, which we have. So, I'll just sit down with Mossarosa and talk to them and think a plan up. Right now, nothing is permanent. He's run twice at Gulfstream, so we'll see.”
Frammento finished second behind Bluegrass Singer in a Dec. 17 allowance race before checking in a distant sixth in the Holy Bull. Saturday, the 63-1 longshot was last in a field of eight with 5/16ths of a mile remaining before surging in the late stages of the race to finish 1 3/4 lengths behind Itsaknockout and just ahead of Frosted, the 7-2 second betting choice.
“I was ecstatic, obviously. It's nice, especially for the horse. We knew he had the talent. Handicapping is a big thing. Red-boarding is a big thing. To me, you have to put a line through his last race. People might say, ‘Why do you put a line through the last race?’ Well, the first turn, he clipped heels a little bit and he kind of was out of the race, and it's just one of those things. So that's why you put a line through it,” Zito said. “But if you look at the race before, his first race at Gulfstream, he ran second to a hot horse at the time in Bluegrass Singer.”
Frosted emerged from his disappointing fourth-place finish in the Fountain of Youth with no physical issues, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. Wearing blinkers for the first time, Frosted looked to be in command with a one-length lead at the head of the stretch before suddenly giving way.
“He looks great. We’re scratching our heads trying to figure it out,” McLaughlin said. “It looked like he was going to win easy, and he pulled himself up soon after making the lead. Physically, he’s fine. We just have to try to figure out what happened and why and what we’re going to do going forward.”
McLaughlin said he will consult with Godolphin racing manager Jimmy Bell about both Frosted and Imperia, who was scheduled to fly back to the trainer’s winter base at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, on Monday. Imperia ran fifth as the favorite in the Risen Star Saturday at Fair Grounds.
“We’re not going to commit to where we’re going to run back or what we’re doing,” McLaughlin said. “We’ll get them back to the track in a few days and see what’s up and make a plan.”
Trainer Marcus Vitali will likely look for one-turn races for Bluegrass Singer in the aftermath of his sixth-place finish in the Fountain of Youth. After leading every step in the one-mile, one-turn Mucho Macho Man Stakes on Jan. 3, the gray gelding set the pace en route to a third-place finish behind Upstart in the Holy Bull. He attempted the same tactics in the Fountain of Youth, but became leg-weary in the stretch and crossed the line in sixth.
“He came out great,” Vitali said. “I did think he'd be on the lead, I didn't expect to be pressured so much by Frosted – I didn't expect the blinkers to put so much lick in that horse. But I guess it wasn't to be. We stuck with our plan. The track was very tiring for everybody. My rider (Paco Lopez) said that as soon as they turned for home, the track really started getting to them all. We had to try, but I guess hindsight is 20-20.”
There are many future options for Bluegrass Singer that are not part of the Triple Crown trail, Vitali pointed out. The gelded son of Bluegrass Cat has hit the board in seven of nine career outings.
“I think we're going to shorten him up, stick to a mile or seven-eighths," Vitali added. "He's a strong horse and he shows up every time he runs. He's been third to the horse that's probably going to be the favorite in the Derby (Upstart). I've got a lot of respect for my horse and we had to try. I think the outcome could have been a little bit different if we didn't get the pressure early, but it's a horse race. Everybody gets the fever, but I don't' want to get caught up in the hype. I think I'm going to rewind the tape. I talked to my boss and said that we should stick to what he does best, which is six to a mile. He's a gelding, so we're not looking to make a stud prospect.
“We'll take our time, take care of the horse and do what's best for him," Vitali continued. “You're going to hear much more from him, believe me. If he stays healthy like he is right now, you'll be seeing a lot more of him.”
Edited Gulfstream Park release