Todd A. Pletcher Racing Stables, Inc.

Race Day Excels in Oaklawn 'Cap
Race Day Excels in Oaklawn 'CapPhoto: Coady Photography
Race Day wins the Oaklawn Handicap.
Matthew Schera's Race Day is proving to be a bargain after taking the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) at Oaklawn Park on April 11.
Schera purchased the gray son of Tapit   at the 2014 Keeneland November sale for $285,000 and transferred the colt to the care of Todd Pletcher. Since that purchase, Race Day has won three of his last four starts, also taking the March 14 Razorback Handicap (gr. III) at Oaklawn.
"It certainly looks like that," said Schera, after being asked if the horse was a good purchase. "He's done everything right since we got him."
Breaking alertly from the rail under John Velazquez, Race Day was involved from the start, battling with Carve through a half-mile in :46.71 and into the stretch, before drawing off to score by 3 3/4 lengths as the 6-5 favorite.
"It worked out perfect," Velazquez said. "We went a little quicker than I expected to, but we had no choice to be up front. We got good position going into the first turn and I tried to save enough horse for the run home. He did everything so easy coming to the quarter pole. When I asked him right at the eighth pole he responded. Very proud of the way he ran today."
It was also the first grade II win for Race Day, who has now won five of eight career starts, with earnings of $610,450.
"It was a super effort," said Pletcher, who also saddled Lawyer Ron to victory in the 2007 Oaklawn Handicap.
After the race Schera said Race Day may try grade I competition next in the $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap from Belmont Park on June 6, as part of the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) undercard.
"It's very exciting," Schera said. "We're thinking the Met Mile next and see how he comes out of it. We always put the horse first."
Carve lasted to be a clear second, while second-choice Tapiture edged out Golden Lad by a neck for third. The field was completed by Street Strategy, Hard Aces, For Greater Glory, Russellin, and Sammy Mandeville.
"I'm not really going to complain," said jockey Jesus Castanon, aboard Carve. "He was really in the bridle today and was happy doing it. He was up there with the winner for most of the race and really tried. He was second best today."
Race Day ran the 1 1/8-mile event in 1:47.93 and returned $4.40 to win, $3.60 to place and $2.80 to show.
Carve paid $7.20 to place and $4.80 to show, while Tapiture returned $3.20 to show.
Race Day was bred in Kentucky by James Miller and is out of the More Than Ready mare Rebalite.
The gray 4-year-old began his career under the care of trainer Kellyn Gorder, finishing third in his debut on Aug. 8 of last year at Ellis Park. He then finished second at Ellis on Aug. 29, before finally breaking his maiden in his third career start at Keeneland on Oct. 3.
He then won an allowance race at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2 before being placed in the sale.


Protonico Bounces Back with Ben Ali Score

Protonico Bounces Back with Ben Ali Score

Protonico Bounces Back with Ben Ali ScorePhoto: Anne M. Eberhardt
Protonico winning the Ben Ali Stakes.
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After being eased during his seasonal debut in the Donn Handicap (gr. I) Feb. 7 at Gulfstream Park, Protonico bounced back with an easy victory in the $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) April 11 at Keeneland.

With the front-running victory, Sumaya U.S. Stables' Protonico secured the third graded stakes win of his career. The 4-year-old son of Giant's Causeway   won last year's Discovery Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct Racetrack and the Smarty Jones Stakes (gr. III) at Parx Racing.

With a pair of recent bullet works signaling his readiness, including a four-furlong breeze in :47 2/5 April 5 at Keeneland, Protonico took control of the 1 1/8-mile race from the start under jockey Javier Castellano. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Protonico led through a half-mile in :47.49 and then left no doubt in the stretch, easily drawing off while completing the test in 1:48.79 on a fast track.

It marked the first gate-to-wire victory for Protonico since his career debuta six-furlong maiden race in September of 2013 under Castellano at Delaware Park

"When we were handicapping the race, I didn't see much speed," Castellano said. "I took advantage—my horse has speed. I rode him before (when he broke his maiden in September 2013 at Delaware Park) and was in the lead wire to wire. I tried to do the same today, and it worked out very well. The way he did it (was) very easy. Turning for home, when I asked he responded so well."

Sent off the 4-5 favorite, Protonico returned $3.60 to win, $2.60 to place, and $2.20 to show. A. Stevens Miles Jr.'s Neck 'n Neck earned his second straight stakes placing, and returned $6.40 to place and $4.60 to show. Ami's Holiday finished 2 1/2 lengths behind the runner-up, finishing third and returning $4.40 to show.


Jack Milton Goes Last to First in Maker's 46

Jack Milton Goes Last to First in Maker's 46

Jack Milton Goes Last to First in Maker's 46Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Jack Milton flies home to win the Maker's 46 Mile.
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Gary Barber's Jack Milton went from last to first to claim his first grade I score in the $300,000 Maker's 46 Mile (gr. IT), tracking down longshot Aripeka in the lane April 10 at Keeneland (VIDEO).

Off at 9-2 odds, the 5-year-old son of War Front   sat last in the seven-horse field, 4 1/2 lengths behind early leader Long On Value after an opening quarter-mile in :23.89 and 5 1/2 back after a half in :47.42. He moved up to sixth when Long On Value covered six furlongs in 1:12, then went seven wide in the final turn to rally for a 2 1/4-length victory.

"I really like the way (it set up today)," jockey Javier Castellano said. "He's a come-from-behind horse and it was a beautiful paceI think it went pretty quick early in the race. It set up perfect (for) a come-from-behind horse. He had a good kick today."

Jack Milton completed the mile in 1:36.30 on a turf course rated soft under Castellano for trainer Todd Pletcher. It was the third win for each on Keeneland's Friday card.

"It was pretty special—special for everybody," Pletcher assistant Tristan Barry said. "We had two plans. If he broke well, we were going to sit close to the pace and pounce. If he didn't, we were going to sit back and make one run. Plan B worked well."

Favored Summer Front, off at odds of 6-5, tracked the early leader and appeared to get a dream rail trip when Long On Value came out of the final turn wide, but faded to finish sixth, 7 1/4 lengths behind the winner. Long On Value hung on to finish third, a head behind Aripeka.

""It seemed like he was struggling a little bit at the end," Summer Front's jockey, Victor Espinoza, said. "It was a little too soft for him. I was sitting patiently with him all the way around. It was wide open for me, but when it was time to go, he struggled a little bit."

Jack Milton returned $11.20, $6.20, and $4. Aripeka delivered $10.40 and $4.20, while Long On Value paid $4 to show.

Bred in Kentucky by Cherry Valley Farm out of the Forty Niner mare Preserver, Jack Milton improved his record to 5-1-5 from 15 career starts and now has $751,161 in career earnings.

Prior to the Maker's 46, Jack Milton's only graded victory came in the mile Poker Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park last May.

Beyond Long On Value, Legendary closed to finish fourth, followed by Za Approval, Summer Front, and Skyring, to complete the order of finish.


Carpe Diem Rumbles in Blue Grass
Carpe Diem Rumbles in Blue GrassPhoto: Anne M. Eberhardt
Carpe Diem takes the Blue Grass Stakes.
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Carpe Diem won for fun in the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) April 4 at Keeneland, living up to his 2-5 favoritism and the hype that surrounded him leading into the race (VIDEO).

The 3-year-old son of Giant's Causeway   put steady pressure on pacesetter Ocho Ocho Ocho and then powerfully took command coming out of the final turn, drawing away down the stretch under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez to finish three lengths ahead. Danzig Moon put in a good closing run to get second, but could not reach the winner, who finished the 1 1/8-mile test on a fast track in 1:49.77.

"We had a really good trip. He was pretty close to the pace and then he just stayed there," Velazquez said. "I tried not use him too much the first part of the race.

"There wasn't much speed in the race. It was a nice slow pace and I didn't want to fight him very much. He was doing it pretty easy. Like (trainer) Todd (Pletcher) said, 'Don't fight him, just let him do it.' Down the lane, I asked him and he responded right away. Once he gets to the lead, he wants to wait, so I have to make sure I keep his mind on running.

"He's done everything right to this point, so hopefully we can keep him like that when we go to Churchill Downs."

Ocho Ocho Ocho held for third, 2 1/2 lengths back, after showing the way through opening fractions of :24.15, :48.05, and 1:12.18, leaving trainer Jim Cassidy uncertain as to his next move.
"His effort was fine," Cassidy said. "I knew (Carpe Diem) was going to go with us. I'm sure Pletcher wasn't going to change his style, but he knew we were going to go and he didn't want us to open up too much on him. It was a hell of a match race there for a bit. We'll see what happens after this. I don't think I have any big plans right at the moment."
Frammento, Classy Class, Gorgeous Bird, Unrivaled, and Pepper Roani completed the order of finish.
The Blue Grass was worth 100 points to the winner on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), bumping Carpe Diem's total on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard to 164 points. Danzig Moon ranks 12th on the list for the 20-horse field with 45 points, and Ocho Ocho Ocho has 30 to rank 19th. 

"He likes the surface here and we like the surface here, so we'll probably stay here a couple weeks or a week at least and then decide if we want to have one breeze at Churchill or two," Pletcher said of future plans for Carpe Diem, one of the trainer's key Kentucky Derby contenders along with Florida Derby (gr. I) winner Materiality.

The victory for Pletcher was his third in the race, tying him with Ben Jones, Woody Stephens, LeRoy Jolley, and Nick Zito for the most triumphs in the classics prep. Pletcher's other wins came with Bandini in 2005 and Monba in 2008.

It was the second Toyota Blue Grass victory for Velazquez, who rode Bandini for Pletcher in 2005.

Carpe Diem came off a March 7 victory in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II), his first start of 2015 for WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stable after running second in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I). He won the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland as a 2-year-old straight off his powerful maiden win Sept. 1 at Saratoga Race Course, and became just the third horse to complete a sweep of the Breeders' Futurity as a 2-year-old and the following spring's Blue Grass, joining Round Table (1956-1957) and Dullahan (2011-2012).

"He just continues to get better and you want to have a horse that's moving forward this time of year—you want to have a horse that's blooming and he's doing that," said Elliott Walden, WinStar's president and CEO.

The winner returned $2.80, $2.40, and $2.10 while Danzig Moon paid $7.80 and $5 with Ocho Ocho Ocho bringing $3.20. 

Norm Casse, assistant to Danzig Moon trainer Mark Casse, had high praise for their runner-up.

"He ran a big race, and with a better trip, we might have been even closer," Casse said. "I'm just glad the real Danzig Moon showed up today and showed that he's a serious racehorse. This race is redeeming, because we thought he had a big shot (in the Tampa Bay Derby) and he ran a bad fourth (behind winner Carpe Diem). But I think he just didn't handle the track that day and today is a better indication of his ability. I'm sure we'll take him over to Churchill and see where he stands and how he's doing."

MCCARTHY: Coffee Pot Brews a Good One in Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem was bred in Kentucky by Coffee Pot Stable out of the Unbridled's Song mare Rebridled Dreams, and is the first grade I winner produced by that outfit. He was a $1.6 million purchase by WinStar and Stonestreet from the Northwest Stud consignment to the 2014 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. selected sale of 2-year-olds in training. The Blue Grass brought his career record to four wins and a second from five starts, for earnings of $1,519,800.


Commissioner Edges 'Quisqueyano' in Skip Away

Commissioner Edges 'Quisqueyano' in Skip Away

Commissioner Edges 'Quisqueyano' in Skip AwayPhoto: Coglianese Photos
Commissioner gets by Sr. Quisqueyano to win the Skip Away.
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WinStar Farm's Commissioner put away stubborn rival Sr. Quisqueyano March 28 at Gulfstream Park, winning the $150,000 Skip Away (gr. III) by a head after a prolonged battle (VIDEO).

Both runners rebounded from failed efforts at tougher starts, 4-year-old Commissioner coming in off a sixth-place finish in the Feb. 7 Donn Handicap (gr. I) for trainer Todd Pletcher, and 5-year-old Sr. Quisqueyano returning to Florida after shipping to take on Shared Belief in the March 7 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park, where he finished ninth for Loooch Racing, Christopher Dunn, and trainer Peter Walder.

Sr. Quisqueyano and jockey Edgard Zayas set the pace in the 1 3/16-mile Skip Away, clicking through opening fractions of :24.38 and :48.97 with 7-5 favorite Commissioner and jockey Javier Castellano tracking about two lengths behind in a group of six. 

Commissioner, a son of A.P. Indy, gradually made up the difference through three-quarters in 1:13.81 and looked ready to drive clear with an outside closing move sweeping around the far turn. Once on even terms with the leader, however, he had his work cut out for him, as 10-1 Sr. Quisqueyano fought back determinedly on the rail while a mile went in 1:38.72.

It was a neck-and-neck battle down the length of the stretch, with Commissioner finally edging out the victory by a neck.

Final time was 1:58.60 on the fast main track.

"We knew Sr. Quisqueyano is a tough horse to get by," Pletcher said. "Javier gave him a good ride. This horse has been knocking on the door for a while. We're happy to get a graded stakes with him, so that he could have a spot in the WinStar stallion barn. These A.P. Indys, we know they just get better with age. We'll probably point to the (June 6) Brooklyn (Handicap, gr. II, at Belmont Park), the only question is whether we run before that or not."     

Commissioner, a Kentucky homebred out of the Touch Gold mare Flaming Heart, returned $4.80, $3.20, and $2.40. Sr. Quisqueyano, by Eluisve Quality, paid $6.80 and $3.60. Encryption returned $2.60 far back in third, while East Hall, Ulanbator, and Tryer completed the order of finish.

The Skip Away win improved Commissioner's record to 3-3-2 from 11 starts for earnings of $617,237. Runner-up by a head to Tonalist in the 2014 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), the bay colt earned his first graded score. 


Unbeaten Materiality Secures Florida Derby

Unbeaten Materiality Secures Florida Derby

Unbeaten Materiality Secures Florida DerbyPhoto: Coglianese Photos
Materiality comes home strong to take the Florida Derby.
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In his graded stakes debut, Alto Racing's Materiality proved up to the challenge as he outlasted grade II winner Upstart in an extended duel and scored a 1 1/2-length victory in the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) Saturday, March 28 at Gulfstream Park (VIDEO).

A son of dual classic winner Afleet Alex  , Materiality picked up his third victory in as many starts in Saturday's 1 1/8-mile race. Trained by Todd Pletcher, who earned his second straight Florida Derby win and third overall, Materiality won a maiden special weight event in January at Gulfstream before taking the Islamorada Handicap March 5 at the South Florida track.

On Saturday in the biggest start of his young career, Materiality and Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) winner Upstart drew off from the other seven 3-year-olds in the far turn and battled into deep stretch, thrilling the crowd. Materiality finally separated himself from Upstart near the sixteenth pole. 

Racing inside of Upstart, Materiality drifted out in the stretch but there was no inquiry or objection after the race. In his previous start, Ralph Evans' Upstart finished first in the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. I) but was disqualified for stretch interference and placed behind Itsaknockout.

"We got very close (to Upstart), that's for sure. We got out a little bit further than I thought I did," Velazquez said. "I had my head down, looking over to make sure I didn't bump him. There was a little brushing, maybe, but there was no contact. I was very conscious to pull back in and you can see the two horses spread apart."

Upstart's trainer Rick Violette Jr. didn't have a problem with the stretch run but wondered if things would have been different if the son of Flatter   hadn't started from the outside in the field of nine.

"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. "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."

Materiality completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:52.3 on a fast track. Ami's Flatter finished well behind the top two finishers—12 1/2 lengths behind Upstart—to secure his first grade I placing while Itsaknockout followed in fourth.

In the Islamorada, Materiality defeated stablemate Stanford, who on Saturday ran second in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots after leading that race into the stretch. Pletcher noted the 22-day turnaround from the Islamorada was a concern.

"So we monitored how he was training; he looked great. He's a big, strong colt and he holds his weight really well. He's got a big appetite," Pletcher said. "He put forth a really good breeze a week ago so we felt like he was showing us all of the right signs.

"Yet you still worry about those situations when you get to the eighth pole. Watching Stanford finish a very good second in the Louisiana Derby about a half-hour before gives you a little more confidence, but you're still concerned about the short turnaround."

Materiality returned $5.60 to win, $3 to place, and $2.40 to show. Upstart, who was sent off as the even-money favorite, returned $2.60 and $2.20, while Ami's Flatter paid $3 to show.

Pletcher won the Florida Derby with Constitution last year and Scat Daddy   in 2007. Materiality, a bay colt, was guided to victory by John Velazquez, who also earned his third Florida Derby win after taking the key prep race aboard Orb   in 2013 and Quality Road   in 2009.

The Florida Derby is a 100-40-20-10 Road to the Kentucky Derby points race, ensuring the winner enough points to qualify for a starting spot in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Upstart also has secured enough points.

Bred in Kentucky by John Gunther, Materiality is out of the Langfuhr mare Wildwood Flower, who also has produced grade II winner My Miss Sophia.

Materiality sold twice before his racing career, most recently being landed for $400,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale where he was purchased by Steven Young, agent, for Gil Moutray's Alto Racing from the consignment of De Meric Sales, agent. As a yearling, Materiality was purchased for $260,000 by Venture Six from Gunther's Glennwood Farm consignment at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale.


Race Day Shows Grit, Takes Razorback Handicap

Race Day Shows Grit, Takes Razorback Handicap

Race Day Shows Grit, Takes Razorback HandicapPhoto: Coady Photography
Race Day fights off Midnight Hawk to win the Razorback Handicap.

Matthew Schera's Race Day edged past a stubborn Midnight Hawk near the wire to capture the $250,000 Razorback Handicap (gr. III) for 4-year-olds and up March 14 at Oaklawn Park (VIDEO).

Race Day, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez, sat just off the pace set by Midnight Hawk from the start in a race that had little movement throughout. Race Day came into the 1 1/16-mile Razorback off of a third-place finish in the Fred Hooper Stakes (gr. III) Feb. 7 at Gulfstream Park.

In a field of six shortened by the scratch of I Got It All earlier Saturday afternoon, Midnight Hawk, ridden by Victor Espinoza for trainer Bob Baffert, grabbed the early lead on a good, sealed track and methodically set fractions of :23.87 for the opening quarter-mile, :48.26 for the half-mile, and 1:12.58 for six furlongs. Race Day was in no hurry to challenge the leader, with Carve and Tapiture further back in third and fourth, respectively.

Race Day, a 4-year-old colt by Tapit   out of the More Than Ready mare Rebalite, hooked Midnight Hawk at the top of the stretch, but Midnight Hawk, to his inside, didn't give in. It wasn't until the late stages that Race Day got past the leader to win by a neck in 1:44.88 for the distance.

Carve, winner of the Fifth Season Stakes at Oaklawn in his previous start, and Tapiture, second in last year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) in his last start, had nothing to offer in the lane. They were passed late by Golden Ticket, who finished third, 7 1/4 lengths behind Midnight Hawk. Carve was fourth, followed by Tapiture and Ride On Curlin.

Velazquez said Race Day, whom he rode in the Hooper and the previous race in which the colt won a second-level allowance race in Florida, needed some urging late.

"Last time there was a lot of pace at Gulfstream, but he didn't break well," Velazquez said. "He broke well today, but was a little rank on the first turn. When he came down the lane, he started waiting a little, so I got after him again, and he put up a good fight."

Race Day is the first horse owner Schera has had with Pletcher. Schera, who lives in Connecticut, makes his living in the hedge-fund business and brought eight friends with him to Arkansas.

"We all flew down; a bunch of friends came," Schera said. "We felt we had a good shot. The last race, he had a little bit of traffic problems, and we know he is a good horse."

Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes said Midnight Hawk, despite defeat, showed improvement.

"He ran huge, and he ran straight, which makes us really happy because in a lot of his past races he has been very erratic," Barnes said. "We could not be happier with him and how well he did today."

Ricardo Santana Jr., who rode fifth-place finisher Tapiture, who carried high weight of 119 pounds for trainer Steve Asmussen, made no excuses.

"He just got tired," Santana said. "He was coming off a layoff and probably just needed this race."

Race Day returned $6.20, $4.80, and $3.60 across the board. Midnight Hawk, in from California, paid $6.80 and $4.40, while Golden Ticket was worth $5.60 to show. The $2 exacta returned $69 and the $1 trifecta $260.30. 

Race Day, bred in Kentucky by James Miller, was purchased by his current owner for $285,000 at the 2014 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. The colt now has four wins, a second, and two thirds in seven starts.


Carpe Diem Returns a Tampa Bay Derby Winner

Carpe Diem Returns a Tampa Bay Derby Winner

Carpe Diem Returns a Tampa Bay Derby WinnerPhoto: SV Photography
Carpe Diem and John Velazquez take the Tampa Bay Derby.

Carpe Diem made his 2015 debut in style March 7, taking the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) at Tampa Bay Downs by five lengths to claim his third victory from four starts (VIDEO).

Runner-up in the Nov. 1 Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) last time out, the 3-year-old son of Giant's Causeway   tracked fourth behind pacesetter Divining Rod, who set fractions of :23.10, :46.65, and 1:11.35. Carpe Diem made his move heading into the far turn, striking the lead heading for home and lengthening away through a 1:37.22 mile under confident handling.   

"He was very fresh warming up and when they finally got him into the gate and I got on, he settled down," said Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who had to dismount momentarily before the start due to Carpe Diem's reluctance to load. "We broke very well and I took a position just where I wanted to be, right behind the leaders. He rated very well and I was able to wait with him until nearing the stretch. When I asked he came away very nicely."

Carpe Diem races for WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stables and is trained by Todd Pletcher. He covered the Tampa Bay Derby's 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.60.

The 3-year-old Triple Crown prep race was his second graded-stakes score; Carpe Diem took the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland in October after breaking his maiden at first asking on Labor Day over Ready for Rye, who on March 7 won the $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Swale Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park.

NOVAK: Ready for Rye Upsets Daredevil in Swale

"When they leave their 2-year-old season behind, you hope they come out like he did," said Elliott Walden, WinStar president and chief executive officer. "Everyone who has watched him train said he has been training better than any horse in Florida, and it's nice to see him put it together like that. He is just a natural athlete and has a great rhythm to him.

"We missed him as a yearling, but thankfully John (Moynihan, representative for co-owner Barbara Banke's Stonestreet Stables). and I got together on him as a 2-year-old."

Bred in Kentucky by Coffee Pot Stable out of the Unbridled's Song mare Rebridled Dreams, Carpe Diem was a $1.6 million purchase by WinStar and Stonestreet from the Northwest Stud consignment to the 2014 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. selected sale of 2-year-olds in training. He improved his earnings to $919,800.

MCCARTHY: Coffee Pot Brews a Good One in Carpe Diem

"We couldn't be more pleased," Pletcher said. "Johnny put him in a perfect position and he really kicked on at the top of the stretch. It was exactly what we were hoping for. He has a history of (reluctance to load) a little, and we will continue to work to try to get that corrected. He has a lot of (sire) Giant's Causeway) and (grandsire) Storm Cat about him; that's what makes him good. We're delighted with the way he ran today."

Off at even money, Carpe Diem returned $4, $3, and $2.40. He was followed home by 13-1 shot Ami's Flatter, who paid $9 and $6.80, and Divining Rod, worth $5.60.
Danzig Moon, Great Stuff, and Moonlight Bandit came next, followed by Sam F. Davis (gr. III) winner Ocean Knight— previously undefeated in two starts and also a Stonestreet Stables runner who failed to fire when asked for run. My Johnny Be Good brought up the rear in the group of eight; Souper Colossal scratched.

"Ocean Knight seemed very flat and maybe it was a minor off day because he had been training like a really good horse," said winning co-owner Barbara Banke of Stonestreet.


Itsaknockout Wins FOY
Upstart DQ'd in FOY, Itsaknockout WinsPhoto: Coglianese Photos/Lauren King
Itsaknockout (right) finishes second to Upstart in the Fountain of Youth, but is awarded the win.
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Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) winner and 4-5 favorite Upstart was disqualified after crossing the wire first in the $400,000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 21 at Gulfstream Park, with lightly-raced Itsaknockout elevated from second to his first graded win (VIDEO).

Upstart, with Jose Ortiz in the irons, closed steadily in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth to take control from 7-2 second choice Frosted in the final sixteenth. But he bore out under steady left-handed urging from Ortiz against Starlight Racing's Itsaknockout in deep stretch, causing not only a stewards' inquiry, but a jockey's objection by Itsaknockout's rider, Luis Saez.

Itsaknockout, a 3-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid  , won his first two races and stepped into stakes company in just his third start Saturday. He now has a 3-for-3 record at Gulfstream and will target the March 28 Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I).

"That was a tough decision," Saez said. "I did think (Upstart) would get taken down, because he really bothered me. When we came into the stretch, I felt like my horse wanted to run, so I thought we'd win the race. But the other horse came out and bothered me. I couldn't ride my horse. He's a little better on the outside. Today there was a little speed outside of us, so we had to play with that. At the three-eighths he really responded." 

Todd Pletcher trainee Itsaknockout rated just off the leaders early on, as Bluegrass Singer went a quarter in :24.27 and a half in :47.87 while tracked by Frosted, the second choice at 7-2. Frosted ranged up to take the lead as three-quarters went in 1:11.65. But a determined Upstart was closing to his outside with Itsaknockout off his right hip.

"(Frosted) came out on me and I bumped (Itsaknockout) after that," Ortiz said. "I bumped him just a little, but I don't think enough to take me down."

The stewards thought otherwise. Although Upstart eked out the advantage through a 1:38.98 mile and then drew ahead by 2 3/4 lengths to finish in 1:46.28 on a fast track, the way he drifted out under Ortiz's steady stick while doing so caused them to place him second despite his finish ahead.

"I feel bad for the connections of the other horse," Pletcher said. "He crossed the finish line first, but definitely we got impeded a bit and Luis (Saez) had to stop riding for a couple strides. I don't know how it would eventually affect the outcome."

"Bad call," trainer Rick Violette said of the Upstart disqualification. "(The stewards) have to understand that when the horse gets hit behind the girth, the only place the horse can go is to the right. It's disappointing. The horse ran great, we just don't get credit for it. Don't know what's next, but we might have to go to New York." 

The Fountain of Youth is worth 50 points to the winner for a spot in the starting gate of the May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), with 20,10, and 5 going to the second- through fourth-place finishers. Itsaknockout jumped to the second spot on the leaderboard with his tally.

With 71 points, International Star tops the leaderboard after winning the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. Upstart, with 36 points, is now third.

NOVAK: International Star Carries On in Risen Star

Itsaknockout paid $12.80, $5, and $4 at odds of 5-1. Upstart paid $2.60 and $2.10. The late-closing Frammento got up over Frosted to return $12.80. Gorgeous Bird, Bluegrass Singer, Juan and Bina, and Danny Boy completed the order of finish.

"The thing I'm most proud of is for this horse to run this well in his third lifetime start, first time around two turns and first time in a (stakes)," Pletcher said. "It was a very, very good effort. He was in between horses in a situation he hasn't been in before, so it was a big effort."

Itsaknockout was bred in Kentucky by Brookfield Stud out of the Cherokee Run mare Stormy B. He was a $350,000 purchase by agent Frank Brothers from the consignment of Dromoland Farm, agent, at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale after being pinhooked for $130,000 by Black Cherry Farm from the Elm Tree Farm consignment at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale in 2012.

"We knew he had the talent, but you have to always wonder until they do it," said Starlight managing partner Don Lucarelli. "This sealed it. We had never won this race and naturally it gives us a lot of aspirations for going to the Derby. We're just excited for all the partners. We had a big crowd here today. We really rolled the bones and it paid off."


Graydar's First Foals Have Arrived!

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