03/25/2015 1:10PM

Materiality could play spoiler in Florida Derby

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Barbara D. Livingston
Materiality, winner of the Islamorada, will start Saturday in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The rematch between Upstart and Itsaknockout will draw most of the prerace attention, but it is the undefeated Materiality who may be the wild card in Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby.

Materiality was an easy winner of his only two starts and now occupies the spot vacated by the highly regarded Khozan, who originally was targeted as stablemate Itsaknockout’s partner in the Florida Derby. Materiality is lightly raced and will try to overcome the long-standing Kentucky Derby jinx of not having started as a 2-year-old if he gets that far.

Materiality, a son of Afleet Alex owned by Alto Racing Stable, did not launch his career until Jan. 11 when capturing a six-furlong allowance race over a sloppy track by 4 1/4 widening lengths. He stretched out to 1 1/8 miles and got on dry land for the first time in the Islamorada overnight stakes eight weeks later and was even more impressive, winning by nearly six lengths over his well-regarded stablemate Stanford.

“He didn’t come to us until we got to Palm Beach Downs in late September, and I think he was close to a race in December,” said Pletcher, when asked why Materiality never raced at 2. “He got what I thought was a very good race going a mile and one-eighth [in the Islamorada], and the time was very solid. I just hope now he’s got enough seasoning to take that next step up.”

Pletcher said he wrestled over the decision of whether to bring Materiality back in the Florida Derby, having only 22 days between starts, or to ship him north for either the Wood Memorial or Blue Grass, both a week from Saturday.

“This is just kind of the way things unfolded,” Pletcher said. “We were trying to figure out whether it was better to run here off three weeks rest or wait and ship to New York and possibly lose our jockey in the process. On one hand, seven extra days can be substantial, and on the other, it’s not that big a deal when talking about shipping and all the other variables involved. It’s also kind of hard to move a horse who is undefeated over a particular surface, as Materiality is here.”

:: FLORIDA DERBY DAY: Get PPs, watch Saturday’s Gulfstream card live

Both Itsaknockout and Materiality came out winners in Tuesday afternoon’s post-position draw for the Florida Derby. They will begin from posts 4 and 7, respectively, much to the delight of Pletcher, who figures both horses should be forwardly placed from the outset.

The draw was not as kind, however, to the favorite Upstart or another of the key contenders, the Tampa Bay Derby runner-up Ami’s Flatter. Upstart will break from the extreme outside in post 9, with Ami’s Flatter, a late addition to the field, starting from the rail.

“It was certainly my last choice,” said Rick Violette, trainer of Upstart. “I might have been on a plane for New York if it had been 10 or 11. Obviously, it’s not ideal, but we’ll have to deal with it. I would have preferred an inside post and an inside trip, where he could get a little schooling, since he’s been outside and in the clear in most of his other races.”

Gulfstream Park will offer a special daily double wager coupling the $10 million Dubai World Cup with the Florida Derby. The wager will be offered not only throughout North America but also in Australia, South Africa, and Germany.

Post time for the World Cup is 1 p.m. Eastern and the Florida Derby is set for 6:48 p.m.