By Dick Downey
Photo by Kenny Martin
Materiality, making his first start in a graded stake, edged Upstart to win the Florida Derby.
John Velazquez notched his fourth win of the day at Gulfstream Park by taking it to the field. Jack Tripp led after a quarter-mile run in :23.89, but Materiality took over from there, cutting out splits of :48.24, 1:12.51 and 1:38.57 en route to a final time of 1:52.30. Upstart ran a half-length to a length behind Materiality at each call and finished 1 1/2 length back at the finish.
David Grening of DRF.com tweeted after the race that the rider of Upstart, Jose Ortiz, wanted to lodge an objection after the race. However, stewards said they called the race official after Ortiz' outrider gave the all-clear; they said Ortiz spoke up too late. Materiality drifted out slightly nearing the furlong marker.
Aside from Jack Tripp's early effort, none of the other seven starters was ever in contention. Itsaknockout was three lengths back after the first quarter-mile, but he was beaten 21 lengths in a fourth-place effort. Third-place finisher Ami's Flatter finished 14 lengths back in third and was almost six lengths behind at the first call.
Fifth was Dekabrist, followed by Indianaughty, My Point Exactly, Quimet and Jack Tripp.
The win gave Materiality 100 Kentucky Derby points. Upstart added 40 points to raise his total to 76, Ami's Flatter doubled his points to 40, and Itsaknockout, who had 50 points going in, now has 60.
Alto Racing’s Materiality followed stablemate Constitution’s 2014 blueprint for success, winning in only his third start after being unraced as a 2-year-old. He won at the Florida Derby nine-furlong distance in his second start.
“You don't see it happen very often, but you don't see horses win their second start off of one six-furlong maiden win and go a mile-and-an-eighth in exceptional time,” said Pletcher. “So I think he stamped himself as a very legitimate horse at that point. But it takes a special one to do that."
“He felt strong the whole way around,” said Velazquez. “We hooked up at the half-mile pole – that's a lot of running.”
Trainer Richard Violette pointed to Upstart’s far-outside No. 9 post position as a factor in his colt’s second-place finish.
“I don’t want to hear from the guys that say, ‘Don’t worry about the nine hole,’ because it made all the difference,” Violette said. If we had him on our hip the whole way, maybe the result would have been different. He beat us fair and square. He is obviously a very nice horse; he comes off a really fast race and didn’t regress.”
“We broke good and we were right where we wanted to be,” Ortiz said of Upstart’s trip. “I think he ran huge. The winner is a good horse too and he proved it.”
Materiality, a son of Afleet Alex, is out of Wildwood Flower, by Langfuhr (CAN). He was bred in Kentucky by John D. Gunther and was purchased for $400,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Timonium sale in 2014.