©2015 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
The “Road to the Kentucky Derby” takes us to Florida this Saturday where Upstart, winner of the Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes (G2), will go the starting gate as the 8-5 morning-line favorite in the 73rd running of The Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2, $400,000) at Gulfstream Park.
In five starts the New-York bred son of Flatter has compiled a 3-1-1 record for trainer Richard Violette, including a win as a two year old in the Funny Cide Stakes, and he finished second in the Champaign Stakes (G1) and third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1). In the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) Upstart looked impressive winning his debut as a three year old by 5½ lengths.
In stakes competition, Upstart has been running against the likes of Texas Red, Carpe Diem and Daredevil, and Frosted who is also entered in this race as the 5-2 morning line second choice. He’s a proven competitor who’s never finished worse than third in five starts and regular rider Jose Ortiz, who’s ridden Upstart in all his races, retains the mount.
Indeed, Upstart is a nice horse and I like him in this race. But, Gorgeous Bird (6-1) and Itsaknockout (4-1) are two young colts that could, perhaps, pull off the upset.
Since finishing off the board in his maiden debut last August, Gorgeous Bird has been perfect in his last two races, compiling a 2-0-0 record in three starts for trainer Ian Wilkes.
Last November, Gorgeous Bird flashed good speed in a seven furlong sprint at Churchill Downs to break his maiden by a 1¾-length margin. Here’s the chart call and video of that race:
GORGEOUS BIRD settled in hand, advanced between rivals through the turn, was pocketed to the three-sixteenths pole, split horses and edged away once clear.
The fractional splits were fast in that race and Gorgeous Bird stalked the leaders, just three lengths off the pace. In the stretch, it looked like Gorgeous Bird, who was stuck behind a group of four horses, would finish off the board. But, he made a nice move by swinging wide and splitting horses to find running room and get up for the win.
In his debut as a three year old last month, Gorgeous Bird looked good winning by an impressive seven lengths in a one mile optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park. Here’s the chart call and video of that race:
GORGEOUS BIRD settled off the leaders early, moved outside though the turn, reached the fore into the lane and drew off as a handy winner.
Gorgeous Bird was off slower in this race but he made up ground to win by an easy seven lengths. He has room to improve in his second start as a three year old and a recent bullet work out could have him ready to run a good race.
Itsaknockout is also a lightly-raced colt and he comes into this race with a 2-0-0 record in two starts for trainer Todd Pletcher. Last December he broke his maiden running seven furlongs at Gulfstream Park in the time of 1:24.96. Here’s the chart call and video of his maiden win:
ITSAKNOCKOUT kept along in range three wide, carried out four wide in the turn, dueled with THE SON WIND, took the lead and held on by a nose over late surging rival.
Itsaknockout showed good speed in that race and a month later, making his debut as a three year, he again flashed speed in winning a one mile optional claiming race at Gulfstream by an impressive 5¼ lengths. Here’s the chart call and video of that race:
ITSAKNOCKOUT settled just off the leaders from the outside, moved up to take command nearing the three-sixteenths pole and drew off as a handy winner.
Itsaknockout easily won that race and another move forward off of his first start as a three year old will make him competitive.
Frosted (5-2) is always competitive on race day but he still has yet to win his first stakes race. He comes into this race with a 1-4-0 record in five starts for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
He’s been training well at the Palm Meadows Training Center and a recent bullet work out could have him ready to run another good race.
The Kentucky Derby Championship Series consisting of 16 races begins this weekend with the running of the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and Risen Star Stakes (G2). The winner of those races will receive 50 points, the second-place finisher will receive 20 points, the third-place finisher will receive 10 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive 5 points.
Halfway through this series beginning with the UAE Derby (G2), Florida Derby (G1) and Louisiana Derby (G2) on March 28, the points will increase to 100 points for the winner, 40 points for second place, 20 points for third and 10 points for fourth place.
Calculator, ranked 5th in the January 24 Kentucky Derby point standings, is sidelined with an injury for six months and he’s off the Derby trail. Leave the Light On, ranked 13th, is also off the trail.
Texas Red is sidelined with a foot abscess but could, perhaps, return to racing in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) or Arkansas Derby (G1).
Here’s a look at the current top twenty Derby qualifiers:
2015 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Individual Leaders ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. El Kabeir, 25, John Terranova II, $380,792
2. International Star, 21, Mike Maker, $250,979
3. Dortmund, 20, Bob Baffert, $390,000
4. Upstart, 16, Rick Violette Jr., $538,080
5. Carpe Diem, 14, Todd Pletcher, $660,000
6. Texas Red, 12, Keith Desormeaux, $1,176,000
7. Mr. Z, 12, D. Wayne Lukas, $488,326
8. Far Right, 12, Ron Moquett, $205,906
9. Ocho Ocho Ocho, 10, Jim Cassidy, $660,000
10. American Pharoah, 10, Bob Baffert, $360,000
11. Daredevil, 10, Todd Pletcher, $300,000
12. Far From Over, 10, Todd Pletcher, $150,000
13. Metaboss, 10, Jeff Bonde, $126,000
14. Lucky Player, 10, Steve Asmussen, $97,231
15. Frosted, 8, Kiaran McLaughlin, $156,800
16. Firing Line, 8, Simon Callaghan, $130,000
17. Conquest Typhoon, 4, Mark Casse, $335,827
18. Bold Conquest, 6, Steve Asmussen, $72,176
19. Rock Shandy, 6, Peter Miller, $56,000
20. Bayerd, 4, Steve Asmussen, $245,000