01/24/2015 5:48PM

Upstart dominates Holy Bull Stakes to kick off 3-year-old campaign

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Barbara D. Livingston
Upstart wins the Holy Bull Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Earlier this month, trainer Rick Violette said everything would have to go perfectly for Upstart to make it into the starting gate for Saturday’s $400,000 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park. And perfect might be the best way to describe Upstart’s performance after he drew off to a convincing 5 1/2-length victory over the 3-2 Frosted and seven other overmatched rivals in the Grade 2 Holy Bull.

Violette opted to launch Upstart’s 3-year-old campaign in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull after his colt put in what he described as a “scary good” work last Sunday at Palm Meadows. The outing was the first for the New York-bred son of Flatter since his third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

With regular rider Jose Ortiz aboard, Upstart was hung three wide around the opening bend but settled into a nice stalking position behind the pace-setting Bluegrass Singer, who set modest fractions of 24.52 seconds and 48.82 for the opening half-mile. Upstart was sent up to engage the leader midway around the second turn, shook free upon settling into the stretch, then steadily increased his advantage to the wire.

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Frosted, who had not started since his second-place finish in the Remsen, also was kept within easy striking distance of the leaders while reserved for six furlongs but proved no match for the winner when set down while taking a bit of an erratic path through mid-stretch. Bluegrass Singer finished another 2 1/4 lengths farther back in third.

Upstart, who is owned by Ralph Evans, completed the distance in 1:43.61 over a fast track and returned $6.20 for his third victory in five career starts. By winning the Holy Bull, Upstart also received 10 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby.

“The post position was a tough one, and they were kind of walking early, so we might have been a little closer than usual,” said Violette. “You needed to be a little more aggressive leaving there to try to get some position and Jose did the right thing.”

Violette said by running in the Holy Bull, it gives him extra options looking down the road on the Kentucky Derby trail. Violette has said he’d like to get three races into Upstart before the Derby.

“One of the advantages of running today is that it gave us a cushion. It gives us two extra weeks to play with if we did come off the bench a little too strong,” said Violette, who mentioned the Fountain of Youth here Feb. 21 and the Gotham at Aqueduct on March 7 as two of his possible options for Upstart’s next start.