Three year old Upstart is coming along faster than even trainer Rick Violette anticipated. Making his three year old debut on Saturday, Upstart easily won the Grade 2 $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The victory also earned Upstart ten points toward Kentucky Derby qualification.
Rick Violette had originally wanted to bring Upstart along slowly during the 2015 Kentucky Derby prep season. In his last action prior to Saturday, he failed to impress in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile finishing third. A month or so ago Violette said that everything would ‘have to go just right’ for Upstart to enter the Holy Bull Stakes but after several very strong workouts he changed his tune. Upstart won the Holy Bull Stakes by 5.5 lengths over 3-2 pre-race favorite Frosted.
Upstart now has 16 points toward Kentucky Derby qualification but trainer Violette is trying to keep his focus on the present and not look ahead to the first Saturday in May: “We’re a long way from the first week in May. Trainers, the worst thing you can hear in the morning is, ‘Come here, boss.’ And we hear it every day. (But) he’s got the talent, I think, and he’s a wonderful horse and the Evanses will let me do what needs to be done with him. So it’s a great position to be in.”
It was Upstart’s third career victory in five starts. Frosted–who hadn’t raced since the Remsen Stakes last November–finished second ahead of third place Bluegrass Singer. But it was Upstart’s day and he’ll certainly drop to lower odds from the 40/1 he was installed at for the January 19th update of the Wynn Las Vegas Kentucky Derby futures. Jockey Jose Ortiz was also very impressed with his effort: “By the half-mile pole I let him go and said, ‘Let’s see what we have here,’ and when we turned for home we rolled. He was very good. He jumped into the bit, and I knew he was ready… Rick did a tremendous job and I want to thank them for giving me the opportunity to ride this amazing horse. When I saw him today in the paddock, I was very surprised because he looked so much bigger and so much stronger. I think he wants to go a mile and a quarter, so we will hopefully make the Kentucky Derby with him.”
No immediate indication of Upstart’s next race though Violette did say that the nice thing about the Holy Bull win is that it gives him ‘options’. Two races he did mention as possibilities are the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream on February 21 and the Gotham at Aqueduct on March 7.