Florida Derby Preview: Upstart vs. Pletcher Pair

March 26, 2015 05:22am

The road to the 2015 Kentucky Derby makes its final visit of the year to South Florida on Saturday for the Grade 1 Florida Derby. Nine three-year-olds will travel 1 1/8 miles over Gulfstream Park’s main track in the oval’s signature event. While winning the Florida Derby is a prestigious victory in its own right, the winner will collect 100 all-important points toward entry into the starting gate on the first Saturday in May. Here’s my rundown of the field from the rail out ...

1. Ami's Flatter  8-1 - The Canadian-bred son of Flatter comes into Saturday’s big one off his best performance yet when a rallying second to the highly regarded Carpe Diem in the Tampa Bay Derby. While a repeat of that performance makes him a threat to fill in the lesser spots of the exotics, he will need to make another jump forward for trainer Josie Carroll to be considered a serious win contender against the likes of Upstart and the Pletcher pair.

2. Jack Tripp  20-1 - The second of three sons of Flatter, this one boasts only a maiden win at Keeneland last October. Since then the Dale Romans trainee has not made much progress in allowance/optional claimer heats. He has faced good horses, but this test seems like too much. He is hard to recommend.

3. Indianaughty  20-1 - Brought back to the United States by Team Valor, this Kentucky-bred son of Indian Charlie was a solid winner of an allowance race on the turf at Gulfstream Park in his American debut in January. That was enough for his team to ship him out west for the El Camino Real Derby. He showed speed that day, but backed out to finish a disappointing 9th of 10. The Florida Derby seems like a tough test to be making his dirt debut; I will pass.

4. Itsaknockout  2-1 - Announced himself as a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender when a bothered second in the Fountain of Youth to Upstart. He scored the victory when the stewards placed him first that afternoon. Whether he would have won it without trouble remains to be seen, but it was a strong performance in only his third lifetime start. Before that, he scored two victories over the track while going through his conditions in fine style. Technically still undefeated, further improvement on Saturday for the son of Lemon Drop Kid could make the Florida Derby his true coming out party.

5. Quimet  20-1 - The son of Birdstone has won only 1-of-5 for trainer Nick Zito, but has run a couple of good races over the Gulfstream Park main track. Unfortunately, he had absolutely no answer for the ability of Materiality in his latest, so expecting much better on Saturday would seem like a stretch. I will be taking a pass.

6. My Point Exactly  30-1 - The Florida-bred son of Concord Point won 2-of-4 as a juvenile, but has not run since winning the Sunday Silence Stakes on the turf at Louisiana Downs last September. This is a very difficult spot for his seasonal debut, but he might be a gelding to keep an eye on down the road for trainer Bill Kaplan.

7. Materiality  7-2 - While much of the Florida Derby pre-race talk will be centered around the Upstart-Itsaknockout rematch, this son of Afleet Alex may be the one good enough to break up their game. He’s only run twice, but the half-brother to last year’s Kentucky Oaks’ runner-up, My Miss Sophia, has looked like the genuine article in winning a maiden race and a listed stakes race over this strip in 2015. Like Itsaknockout, he is trained by Todd Pletcher, who has won the Florida Derby twice before, including last year’s edition with Constitution. A major contender.

8. Dekabrist  30-1 - Once a hotshot juvenile in South Florida, this son of Street Boss has had no less than eleven chances to build upon his first two career wins, without success. Finding success on Saturday would be a true shocker.

9. Upstart  8-5 - The proven class of the field has run nothing but good races in six lifetime starts, including a very good 3rd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The talented New York-bred also sports two strong performances in graded stakes already this season at Gulfstream Park. Still, the Rick Violette trainee will be looking for revenge against Itsaknockout after being disqualified from victory in last month’s Fountain of Youth Stakes. On Saturday, the son of Flatter figures to get a good stalking trip under rider, Jose Ortiz, from his outside post position. A legitimate favorite, Upstart is the one to beat in this year’s Florida Derby.


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Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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