02/21/2015 8:05PM

Itsaknockout wins Fountain of Youth by disqualification

Barbara D. Livingston
Itsaknockout (left) challenges Upstart (No. 7) in the stretch of the Fountain of Youth Stakes.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Todd Pletcher called it “a jump ball.” And he won. Rick Violette Jr. was less hospitable. “That’s a terrible call,” he said.

Both trainers were reacting on the track to a decision announced just seconds before by track announcer Larry Collmus, that stewards had disqualified the Violette-trained Upstart for interference, placing Pletcher’s Itsaknockout first, after an extremely odd running of the Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

Upstart crossed the wire first, but he drifted out in deep stretch. Itsaknockout finished second after being bumped, but it was debatable whether he had lost his punch when the incident occurred. The stewards ruled that the incident impacted the placings and put Itsaknockout first, allowing him to keep his record unbeaten after three starts.

The first two didn’t even look as though they had a chance a quarter-mile out. Frosted had breezed to the front and seemed to be in control, going easily. But he fell apart badly late, and three horses went past him, with all of them appearing to struggle with the surface.

It took Upstart 1:46.28 to complete 1 1/16 miles on a track rated “fast.” It was the first dirt race in nearly two hours. A pair of grass races had been run in the interim. The final sixteenth of a mile took 7.30 seconds, the final five-sixteenths 35.13 seconds.

Upstart, the 9-10 favorite, crossed the wire 2 3/4 lengths in front. Itsaknockout was second by 1 3/4 lengths over Frammento, who closed from last in the eight-horse field to finish third, a neck in front of Frosted. Gorgeous Bird was fifth and was followed by Bluegrass Singer, Juan and Bina, and Danny Boy.

Among the many reasons the disqualification is so pivotal is that the Fountain of Youth  is worth 50 points for first, and 20 for second, under the system used by Churchill Downs to determine the field for the May 2 Kentucky Derby. Oh, and it’s not an insignificant amount of purse money, too – $240,560 for first, $77,600 for second.

Itsaknockout ($12.80) was making his first start around two turns, and his stakes debut, after winning against maidens going seven furlongs and in a first-level allowance in a one-turn mile, both at Gulfstream.

“It was an impressive effort for his third start, first time going two turns,” Pletcher said. “He was in a bit of a spot between horses, but once he got out, he was OK.”

Pletcher said he “felt bad for the connections of the other horse.”

Luis Saez, who rode Itsaknockout, called it “a tough decision.”

“The other horse came out and bothered me,” Saez said. “I couldn’t ride my horse.”

Violette opined that Upstart moved out because he was hit in his hind end, forcing him to his right.

“They,” he said, referring to 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.”

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:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays

Derby profiles Upstart was on his toes in the paddock before the race, seemingly on edge to run another corker like he did last month in the Holy Bull Stakes. But he came under a heavy ride from jockey Jose Ortiz with three furlongs to go and kind of trudged home.

Itsaknockout, a son of Lemon Drop Kid, is owned by the Starlight Racing partnership headed by Jack Wolf and Don Lucarelli. Pletcher said Itsaknockout would come back in next month’s Florida Derby here.

“There’s no need to change anything,” Pletcher said.

Violette initially had earmarked the Florida Derby as a final prep for Upstart. But he said he might instead go to the Wood Memorial one week later at Aqueduct.

Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains Frosted, said he thought his colt “just pulled himself up.”

“He shortened stride on his own. We don’t know if it’s from hitting him or what. Irad’s not sure,” McLaughlin said, referring to jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. “We thought we were a winner turning for home. He seemed to come back OK. He just pulled himself up turning for home. I think the blinkers helped for the most part, but not the last quarter. We’ll have to go back to the drawing board.”

His performance will be one of many, both human and equine, widely scrutinized after this race.

– additional reporting by Mike Welsch


Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was the right call.
James P More than 1 year ago
LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL at all the chalk eating weasels crying over a borderline dq. Get these guys a giant cry towel acting like they were the victims of a miscarriage of justice. If the 7 hadn't bore out so many paths then there wouldn't have been a stewards review. The horse deserved to come down. But if you disagree that's fine. It was in the gray area. Stop crying about travesties of justice and the "fix" being in. Really you people are pathetic.
[removed] More than 1 year ago
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James P More than 1 year ago
It's not the stewards job to decide if the 5 would have gotten up or not. The 7 bore out several paths and deserved to come down. At the very least it was in the gray area and there was nothing "disgraceful" about it. Maybe you lost $ on the chalk.
[removed] More than 1 year ago
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James P More than 1 year ago
The rail horse started the contact and you're going to tell me with a straight face that this caused Upstart to bear out continuously to the point where he practically could have gotten a beer in the stands? There's no way you can honestly conclude that Upstart didn't do some bearing out well after the minor initial contact was made by the rail horse. Watch the head on.
BigAfan More than 1 year ago
One of the worst calls I've ever seen.
Frank More than 1 year ago
These stewards are out of control with there bad calls -- I think they need to be investigated for race fixing. I'm still not over that turf race in Tampa 3weeks ago when they took down Hard Not To Like and put up Testi Rosi instead. That was such a BS call and happened so close to wire where Testi Rosi would not even had enough ground to win if there was no inquiry -- Just like this idiot stupid crazy call that was a fix!
jim lefferts More than 1 year ago
A staggeringly bad call. It's wildly speculative to suggest a horse who drew off to win by 3 was going to lose. The steward got fooled by a Luis Saez flop. It wasn't even close.
J Vette More than 1 year ago
Another horrible decision, looks like the fix was in....
TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
don't let meydan rocks read your post, he believes races aren't fixed at all!
Darrell Peck More than 1 year ago
There was no way that Upstart gets beat. The tiring Frosted started the chain reaction that caused Upstart to drift. If he only wins by one length of less then maybe yes he should but clearly there was no way he gets beat, another black eye for racing.
Greg B More than 1 year ago
Politics may have played a roll in the stewards decision. I can only imagine if Pletcher's horse had did the bumping, what the call would have been. Upstart was nudged by Frosted in the stretch and thats all it took to start the domino effect. Ortiz whipped left handed to move away from the inside and continued with the left whipping. Perhaps changing to the right hand would have been too close to Itsaknockout. You can be disqualified definitely if you hit another horse or jockey. With that said, there should have been a 'No Call'.
Chris Lowe More than 1 year ago
Agreed, Itsaknockout moved closer to Upstart preventing any right hand encouragement.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
Final thoughts on this race..it was a calculated bad decision by the stewards what else is new. Obviously something happened to the track in the 2 hours between the last two dirt races..all the people who are out there saying these horses are slow.are just dead wrong.unless they all just suddenly went from running very fast races a month ago to slow now.UPSTARTS last race was fast very fast as where some of his prior races.so if there's any issue its with the track. maybe they should call in track management crew and have them explain publicly what they did to slow down the track and why...as a matter of fact any crew that cant keep a track at a consistent level on a perfect weather day should be fired. Another issue is favoritism by stewards in inquiry's and objections. A few months ago a CHUG horse OWNED by PHIPPS absolutely mugged a horse in the stretch. I turned to my friends and said no doubt that horse is coming down, they replied sorry as bad as that was its a PHIPPS horse against a nobody's horse.no way they take him down and they did not. There was an objection followed by an inquiry and nothing .i felt cheated and did not place a bet at gulfstream for months. This was the same thing again.PLETCHER is the somebody and VIOLETTE nobody. And that's how it goes in Florida. take your horse to NY for the WOOD and at least there you have some clout .