Alto Racing’s Materiality battled even-money favorite Upstart through the stretch before registering a 1 ½-length victory in Saturday’s $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1) in just his third lifetime start in Gulfstream Park’s signature event.
Upstart was developed in Camden by Frank and Daphne Wooten at Frank Wooten Stables for owner Ralph Evans and trainer Richard Violette.
Longshot Jack Tripp took the early lead, showing the way around the first turn and along the backstretch while being stalked by Materiality and Upstart to his outside. As the leaders approached the far turn, John Velazquez, aboard Materiality, and Jose Ortiz, aboard Upstart, asked their mounts for some run and they quickly passed a badly tiring Jack Tripp, setting up a furious duel to the finish.
Materiality, the 9-5 second-betting choice, held a narrow advantage over Upstart around the turn and into the homestretch. Both horses dug in for the stretch run, neither giving away to the other as they raced in tight quarters to the finish. Materiality resisted Upstart’s outside challenge in the end, to prevail in Gulfstream’s key race for 3-year-olds.
Materiality ran the 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:52.30.
Upstart finished 12 ½ lengths ahead of third-place finisher Ami’s Flatter, the 7-1 fourth choice ridden who closed from off the pace under Javier Castellano. Itsaknockout, the 6-1 third choice ridden by Luis Saez, was never a factor, finishing fourth, another seven lengths back.
Violette pointed to Upstart’s far-outside No. 9 post position as a significant 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 in a Gulfstream Park press release. "If we had (Materiality) on our hip the whole way, maybe the result would have been different. (Materiality) beat us fair and square. He is obviously a very nice horse; he comes off a really fast race and didn’t regress."
Upstart had finished first in two important Florida Derby preps during Gulfstream’s Championship Meet, capturing the Holy Bull (G2) by 5 ½ lengths before prevailing over Itsaknockout by 2 ¾ lengths in the Fountain of Youth (G2), only to be disqualified and placed second for interference.
"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."
On Sunday, Violette deemed Upstart good to go for a start in the May 2 Kentucky Derby.
"He’s a little tired, but otherwise he’s OK," Violette said.
The 3-year-old son of Flatter, who has been training at Gulfstream Park’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County during the winter, has more than enough qualifying points to be included in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field on May 2.
"If all things stay well, we’ll stay here and train and head up to Kentucky on Derby week," Violette said.