02/23/2015 12:40PM

Weekend winners to stay on same track

Barbara D. Livingston
Khozan will head to the Florida Derby off this allowance victory at Gulfstream on Sunday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The winners of the major Kentucky Derby preps run over the weekend all came out of their races well and will continue to race at the same track, though in the case of Southwest Stakes winner Far Right, he’ll skip the Rebel on March 14, the next prep at Oaklawn Park, and await the Arkansas Derby on April 11.

International Star, who won the Risen Star, will head right back to Fair Grounds for the Louisiana Derby, while Itsaknockout, who was placed first via disqualification in the Fountain of Youth, will remain at Gulfstream Park for the Florida Derby. Both the Louisiana Derby and Florida Derby are on March 28.

The Florida Derby picked up an exciting prospect Sunday in Khozan, who crushed an allowance field at Gulfstream and will move on to stakes competition next. Both Itsaknockout and Khozan are trained by Todd Pletcher.

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Khozan got a Beyer Speed Figure of 90 for his win, the same figure earned by Itsaknockout. Upstart, who crossed the wire first in the Fountain of Youth, got a 95, reflective of the 2 3/4-length margin between him and Itsaknockout.

International Star got a 93 Beyer for the Risen Star, while Far Right got a 91 for the Southwest.

The Fountain of Youth was the most talked-about race of the weekend, owing to the controversial decision of Gulfstream’s stewards to take down Upstart after a bumping incident in the stretch. That allowed Itsaknockout to remain unbeaten in three starts, all at Gulfstream.

Pletcher on Sunday said he thought it best to simply remain at Gulfstream with Itsaknockout.

“I don’t see any point in getting cute now,” Pletcher said. “He seemed to come back in good order so far.”

Trainer Rick Violette Jr. on Sunday said Upstart had come out of the race well but tired, and he called the disqualification a “very, very questionable decision.”

“Obviously, it was very disappointing,” Violette said. “The horse ran his guts out, and then to have the victory taken away – but we’ll move on, adjust, and get ready for the next race.”

The adjustment and the next race are tied together. Violette said he is now leaning toward the Wood Memorial on April 4 at Aqueduct as a final Kentucky Derby prep for Upstart. He originally had penciled in the Florida Derby one week earlier here at Gulfstream.

Asked if it was the hard race, the stewards’ decision, or a little of both that prompted the move to the Wood Memorial, Violette replied, “A little of both.”

“It was a very tough, tiring racetrack,” he said. “Everybody was staggering.”

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin on Sunday said he was “licking his wounds” after Frosted disappointed in the Fountain of Youth and stablemate Imperia ran fifth in the Risen Star.

Frosted wound up fourth in the Fountain of Youth after cruising to the lead on the final turn. McLaughlin said Frosted had come out of the race well, and he was as puzzled as anyone as to why Frosted didn’t finish well.

“I haven’t had that happen to me much,” McLaughlin said. “I’m sure everybody in the country was saying, ‘How far is he going to win by?’ It’s a tough one to swallow this morning.”

As for Imperia, McLaughlin reported that jockey Mike Smith told him “he was traveling well, and at the quarter pole, he went to ‘swimming.’

“That was the word Mike used. He said the track was dry, and he didn’t handle it great.” McLaughlin said.

International Star has had no trouble with Fair Grounds. He won his second straight stakes there, adding the Risen Star to his victory in last month’s Lecomte. His trainer, Mike Maker, on Monday said coming back in the Louisiana Derby was “the logical thing to do.”

Maker said International Star was to be flown on Monday back to Florida, where he trains at Gulfstream Park between starts.

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War Story, who finished second in both the Lecomte and Risen Star, also has progressed at Fair Grounds, where he trains, and is expected back for the Louisiana Derby.

Far Right won the Southwest despite not relishing the going, according to trainer Ron Moquett, who said the track was “slipping out from him.” Co-owner Harry Rosenblum said Far Right would await the Arkansas Derby because the time frame between the Southwest and Rebel became shortened by a week owing to the Southwest’s postponement.

The Truth Or Else, who was second in the Southwest in his first start with Lasix, will point to the Rebel. Mr. Z., who finished third, will head elsewhere because Eclipse Award winner American Pharoah – like Mr. Z owned by Zayat Stables – is scheduled to make his 2015 debut in the Rebel.

– additional reporting by Marcus Hersh and Mary Rampellini