April 2015 Issue - page 6

Page 6
April 2015
PENNSYLVANIA EQUESTRIAN
(Continued on page 37)
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Upstart is a Prime Derby Contender for Violette
by Terry Conway
When you've just won a
$400,000 Derby prep race and
you're headed to the winner's
circle, it's never good to see a
flashing inquiry sign. Trainer
Rick Violette, Jr. was getting
ready to celebrate after watching
his talented three-old Upstart
roll to a 2 3/4 length victory in
the Fountain of Youth Stakes at
Gulfstream Park on Feb. 21.
After a lengthy review, the
4-5 favorite Upstart was disqual-
ified and placed second behind
the stakes debuting Todd Pletcher
trainee Itsaknockout. Violette
and Upstart's owner Ralph Evans
quickly departed the winner’s
circle.
"Bad call," said a clearly
upset Violette after the race. "They
(stewards) have to understand that
when the horse gets hit behind the
girth (by a tiring and drifting-out
Frosted), the only place the horse
can go is to the right. It's disap-
pointing. The horse ran great, we
just don't get credit for it."
With Jose Ortiz in the irons,
the New York-bred Upstart
closed steadily in the 1 1/16-mile
Derby prep to take control from
7-2 second choice Frosted in
the final sixteenth. But Upstart
bore out under steady left-hand-
ed urging from Ortiz against
Starlight Racing's Itsaknockout
in the deep stretch. Upstart raced
wide throughout and the Trakus
measurement system showed that
he covered 20 feet more than It-
saknockout and 54 feet more than
third place finisher Framment.
A son of Flatter, Upstart
was on track for a start in the $1
million Florida Derby (Grade-1),
Gulfstream Park's signature race
and key Triple Crown prep on
March 28. Having earned 36
qualifying points thus far Upstart
likely will be in the Kentucky
Derby starting gate on May 2.
"I’m really happy with where
we are," Violette, 62, noted. "He’s
rebounded well from a tough race
(Fountain of Youth). Right now,
we’re certainly pointing to the
Florida Derby. We’ll follow his
lead if he makes us change course,
but that’s where we’re going.”
Violette got his start in the
horse industry showing hunters and
jumpers on the East Coast circuit.
A graduate of Lowell University in
his native Massachusetts, Violette
began working on the backstretch
at Suffolk Downs. He started his
own public stable in 1983. Al-
though based in NewYork, Violette
often ships horses down to the Fair
Hill Training Center for rehabilita-
tion at the equine therapy center as
well as for workouts on the Tapeta
and dirt tracks.
As of mid- March, Violette
has won 798 races in 4,954 career
starts, and earned over $37 mil-
lion in purses. He conditioned the
gritty Samraat to a fifth-place run
in the 2014 Kentucky Derby. Up-
start is another one of those blue
collar horses who keeps going out
and getting the job done. After
winning his first two starts, the
colt was second to Daredevil in
the Champagne Stakes (Grade-1)
at Saratoga and came back to run
third in the $2 million Breeders'
Cup Juvenile. He earned his
first career graded stakes win
in the Holy Bull (Grade-3) and
crushed runner-up Frosted by 5
1/2 lengths to earn a brilliant 106
Byers Speed figure on Jan. 24.
Violette said he had un-
der-trained Upstart for the Fountain
of Youth and was expecting a re-
gression from the Holy Bull Stakes.
He got it. In the Fountain of Youth,
Upstart ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.28,
almost three seconds slower than
his Holy Bull. Frankly, it was a
strangely run race where the horses
struggled to change leads, were
unable to keep a straight course,
and all labored in the stretch. Still,
Upstart dug in gamely in the deep
stretch and was pulling away at the
wire. He was clearly the best colt in
the race.
“The track appeared very
tiring," said Violette, whose colt
carried between four and six
pounds more than his rivals in
the Fountain of Youth. "It was
windy, very dry out there. It got
very laboring. Everybody was
laboring home. My colt showed a
lot of talent in the Holy Bull and
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