Upstart Burnt by Bizarre Fountain of Youth Finish
If you watch horse racing long enough you’ll see just about everything. That being said, there’s occasionally something especially strange that happens. That was the case on February 21 in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Florida’s Gulfstream Park. Rick Violette’s highly regarded colt Upstart crossed the finish line first just ahead of the Todd Pletcher trained Itsaknockout. The race didn’t end that way, however, as Upstart was disqualified by track stewards for interfering with Itsaknockout in the deep stretch run.
After most of the field got off to a poor start due to the miserable conditions on the track (which somehow was listed as ‘Fast’ despite the visual evidence to the contrary) the race came down to Upstart and Itsaknockout. Upstart definitely made contact with Itsaknockout at the top of the stretch but it didn’t seem like anything more than ‘incidental’. Furthermore, it didn’t look like it caused the horse to break stride nor did it impact the finishing order of the race (which is the ‘official’ litmus test for an interference call).
The Gulfstream stewards saw the incident differently, dropping Upstart to second place and giving Itsaknockout instant Kentucky Derby contender status in his first career stakes race. Itsaknockout was awarded 50 Derby qualification points for his strange victory while Upstart received 20.
Not surprisingly, the horsemen’s take on the race had a lot to do with which horse they represented. Itsaknockout’s trainer Pletcher suggested that he’d gotten lucky in a ‘jump ball’ type of ruling. Upstart’s trainer Violette had a different take, labeling the decision a ‘bad call’ and lamenting that the horse had run great but ‘we didn’t get credit for it’. The most erudite observation on the outcome was that of Jack Wolf, owner of Itsaknockout who opined: “It really is weird to not win the race and win the race. God bless the stewards.”