Monday 26 January 2015

Upstart kicks off Kentucky Derby trials in style

The Kentucky Derby on May 2nd is firmly on the minds of connections of Upstart after his impressive return to action in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream.


Upstart is by Flatter out of Party Silks and finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November for Rick Violette and Jose Ortiz. He finished six and a half lengths and a nose behind Texas Red and Carpe Diem at Santa Anita but seems to have improved from two to three.

He drew right away from the Godolphin-owned favourite Frosted to win by five and a half lengths on his seasonal debut. He recorded a time of 1m 43.61s to land the $400,000 prize and earn 10 points towards the Kentucky Derby, putting him third overall on the list*. He was cut to 20-1 by bookmakers for the big race behind 10-1 favourite American Pharaoh with Texas Red next best at 12-1 and Dortmund at 16-1.

American Pharaoh

Trainer Bob Baffert won the Kentucky Derby in 1997 and 1998 with Silver Charm and Real Quiet. He has two leading contenders this year with American Pharoah and Dortmund.

American Pharoah was set to start one of the shortest priced favourites at the Breeders’ Cup but was forced to miss the Juvenile due to a bruised foot. He had won his previous two races, the Grade 1 Frontrunner Stakes and Del Mar Futurity. Many pundits felt that he was a certainty for the Juvenile and they may well have been right. Juvenile winner Texas Red had been beaten nearly five lengths by American Pharoah in the Frontrunner.

The son of Pioneerof The Nile swept into the lead early on and was kicked clear to beat Calculator by three and a quarter lengths in a time of 1m 44.95s. He made all the running to beat the same horse by a similar margin in the Futurity on his previous start and remains an exciting prospect.

American Pharoah’s sire was runner-up in the Kentucky Derby in 2009 for Zayat Racing. Their blue and yellow colours would also finish second with Nehro in 2011, beaten by Animal Kingdom. Pioneerof The Nile is a son of 2003 Derby runner-up Empire Maker and a grandson of 1990 Derby winner Unbridled.


Stable companion Dortmund had to work much harder to win the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity in a three-way photo. Baffert was winning the race, formerly held at the now defunct Hollywood Park, for a record seventh time.

Dortmund is a son of 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown and just got the verdict over Firing Line and Mr Z. Out of Grade 3-placed sprinter Our Josephina, Dortmund is the best of Big Brown’s progeny to date. The most recent winner of the race to go on to glory in a Triple Crown race was Oxbow in 2012 who won the Preakness the following year. Although not as impressive on the racecourse as American Pharoah, Baffert insists that there is little between the two at home.

Texas Red

In winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by six and a half lengths, Texas Red paid a huge compliment to American Pharoah who had beaten him comprehensively in the Frontrunner Stakes. He provided trainer Keith Desormeaux with his first Breeders’ Cup winner, cutting through the field after they had gone a suicidal early pace. Carpe Diem plugged on to take second with Upstart third and Irish raider The Great War back in fourth.

El Kabeir

El Kabeir is a colt by Scat Daddy out of a mare by Unbridled’s Song. He landed the $200,000 Jerome at Aqueduct, the first recognised Derby prep race of 2015.

He had won the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs on his last start as a juvenile for trainer John Terranova. El Kabeir launched his bid three-wide under Chuck Lopez and drew four and three-quarter lengths clear of Nasa and Ostrolenka to earn 10 qualifying points for the Derby. He runs in the colours of Zayat Stables who also have early favourite American Pharoah and Mr Z in contention for the big race.

*The final field for the 141st Kentucky Derby will be determined by the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” eligibility system, as in the previous two seasons.

by Harvey Mayson