Undefeated Colt Gives Pletcher Back-to-Back Wins in Grade 1 Prep
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Alto Racing’s Materiality followed stablemate Constitution’s 2014 formula for success Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
The Todd Pletcher-trained colt battled even-money favorite Upstart through the stretch before registering a 1 ½-length victory in the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1) in just his third lifetime start – an accomplishment pulled off by Constitution in last year’s running of Gulfstream Park’s signature event.
“You don't see it happen very often, but you don't see horses win their second start off of one six-furlong maiden win and go a mile-and-an-eighth in exceptional time,” said Pletcher, whose trainee locked up a spot in the 20-horse field for the Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 2. “So I think he stamped himself as a very legitimate horse at that point. But it takes a special one to do that."
The late-developing Materiality didn’t make his career debut until Jan. 11, when he rolled to a 4 ½-length victory in a six-furlong maiden test at Gulfstream. The son of Afleet Alex came back to capture the Islamorada Handicap at the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby distance by 5 ¾ lengths three weeks ago at Gulfstream.
Saturday, Materiality was ready to go the distance in the 64th running of the Florida Derby, which has produced 57 winners of Triple Crown events.
Longshot Jack Tripp took the early lead, showing the way around the first turn and along the backstretch while being stalked by Materiality and Upstart to his outside. As the leaders approached the far turn, John Velazquez, aboard Materiality, and Jose Ortiz, aboard Upstart, asked their mounts for some run and they quickly passed a badly tiring Jack Tripp, setting up a furious duel to the finish. Materiality, the 9-5 second-betting choice, held a narrow advantage over Upstart around the turn and into the homestretch. Both horses dug in for the stretch run, neither giving away to the other as they raced in tight quarters to the finish. Materiality resisted Upstart’s outside challenge in the end, to prevail in Gulfstream’s key race for 3-year-olds.
“It shaped up the way Johnny and I talked about after the previous race. We thought about the way it might set up, that the ‘2’ (Jack Tripp) might show some speed, Materiality might be laying in a stalking-type position. We felt that Upstart would probably have us as his primary target, and all of that unfolded exactly like we talked about,” said Pletcher, who has saddled three Florida Derby winners: Materiality, Constitution and Scat Daddy (2007).
Materiality ran the 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:52.30.
“He felt strong the whole way around,” said Velazquez, who rode four winners Saturday. “We hooked up at the half-mile pole – that's a lot of running.”
Upstart finished 12 ½ lengths ahead of third-place finisher Ami’s Flatter, the 7-1 fourth choice ridden who closed from off the pace under Javier Castellano. Itsaknockout, the 6-1 third choice ridden by Luis Saez, was never a factor, finishing fourth, another seven lengths back.
Trainer Richard Violette pointed to Upstart’s far-outside No. 9 post position as a significant factor in his colt’s second-place finish.
“I don’t want to hear from the guys that say, ‘Don’t worry about the nine hole,’ because it made all the difference,” Violette said. If we had (Materiality) on our hip the whole way, maybe the result would have been different. (Materiality) beat us fair and square. He is obviously a very nice horse; he comes off a really fast race and didn’t regress.”
Upstart had finished first in two important Florida Derby preps during Gulfstream’s Championship Meet, capturing the Holy Bull (G2) by 5 ½ lengths before prevailing over Itsaknockout by 2 ¾ lengths in the Fountain of Youth (G2), only to be disqualified and placed second for interference.
“We broke good and we were right where we wanted to be,” Ortiz said of Upstart’s trip. “I think he ran huge. The winner is a good horse too and he proved it.”
Ami’s Flatter, who finished second in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) last time out, was third best while never threatening the first two finishers.
“He did really well today. I'm very proud of this horse. I know those two horses Upstart and Materiality were the two best horses in the race. They sprinted off and it was hard to catch up,” Castellano said of the Josie Carroll-trained colt. “Today he came from behind, kind of the same pace. I'm very proud of the way he did it.”
The Pletcher-trained Itsaknockout finished a length ahead of Dekabrist, who was followed by Indianaughty, My Point Exactly, Quimet and Jack Tripp.