By Dick Downey
Fountain of Youth winner Itsaknockout and Holy Bull winner Upstart breezed at separate locations Saturday morning for the March 28 Florida Derby.
Upstart went a sharp five furlongs in :59.55 (4/24) at Palm Meadows, and Itsaknockout went four in 48:79 (5/30) at Palm Beach Downs. Upstart was prompted by a stablemate to his outside for three-eighths of a mile before drawing off through the stretch under exercise rider Vicki King, while Itsaknockout worked in company with recent sharp Islamorada Handicap winner Materiality.
"That was cool," said Upstart's trainer, an obviously pleased Rick Violette. "It was exceptional. It's what good horses do. It was just to kind of get him on the bridle and let him know that today was serious. It was to get his game face on, and he certainly did. We work a lot past the wire. His last eighth was 11-and-4."
Itsaknockout was one of a multitude of Todd Pletcher trainees sent out on Saturday morning. Others included Tampa Bay Derby winner Carpe Diem, who breezed four furlongs in 48:92 (7/30), his first workout since winning in Tampa. Daredevil, second in the Swale Stakes in his seasonal debut, breezed a bullet four furlongs in 48:14 (1/30). Withers Stakes winner Far from Over, pointed to the Wood Memorial, breezed five furlongs in 1.01:76 (7/8). J S Bach, who missed the Risen Star after spiking a fever, breezed for the second time since then, five furlongs in 1.01:76 (7/8).
Itsaknockout and Materiality, both pointed to the Florida Derby, went in identical times. Both galloped out strongly past the wire, clocked in 1:01 for five furlongs and 1:12 1/5 for six. Exercise rider Danny Wright was aboard Itsaknockout, and John Velazquez handled Materiality.
“Both horses worked extremely well, head-and-head, the right way. I’m pleased with both of them,” Pletcher said. “I think both horses are coming into the race fit. We’re just trying to keep them happy. I just thought they’d make nice workmates. They’re both pretty straightforward horses to breeze. They’re both being considered for the same race, so I was kind of looking for the same workout from both of them. I thought it was a well-executed breeze. Both horses seemed very happy doing it. They’ve gotten to this point as well as you could hope for. Technically they’re both undefeated and lightly raced but have come a long way in a short period of time.”
The workout was his third for both Upstart and Itsaknockout since the Fountain of Youth, when Upstart crossed the finish line first but was disqualified to second for interfering with Itsaknockout in the stretch.
Eh Cumpari Possible for Return to Dirt in Florida Derby
Palm Beach Stakes winner Eh Cumpari breezed five furlongs in 1:02.40 (18/24) at Palm Meadows Saturday morning.
Although the colt has been mentioned for the Wood Memorial or Blue Grass Stakes on April 4 or Arkansas Derby on April 1, trainer Michael Dilger left open the possibility that the son of Elusive Quality could run in the Florida Derby.
"It's possible. We'll make a decision this weekend. We have until Tuesday," Dilger said. "It's a lot of prize money. It's not to be sneezed at -- it's a million bucks. It'll be a tough race. There isn't that kind of prize money (on turf) until July or August."
In his career debut on Nov. 8 at Aqueduct, Eh Cumpari broke his maiden on the main track rated good in an off-the-turf event, in which he closed from 11th. After finishing off the board in the Remsen Stakes three weeks later, Eh Cumpari debuted on turf at Gulfstream on Jan. 24, when he finished a solid fifth after racing wide from his outside post position. He rebounded to capture the 1 1/16-mile Palm Beach on turf by a neck.
Additional content by Gulfstream Park release