Two comments appear in the Fountain of Youth running line for Itsaknockout. “Carried out” and “Checked.”

Those words describe separate instances. Both muggings occurred in the stretch run. Yet many professional observers doubt that the offending Upstart deserved to be DQ’d. They see his 2-length win as clear evidence of superiority.

The Florida Derby should clear up that misunderstanding.

If you watch the race replay closely, you’ll see jockey Luis Saez wisely pull Itsaknockout back from a midrace pace duel, while Upstart remained in the thick of it. Rounding the far turn, Itsaknockout launched a solid bid, rapidly gobbling up lost ground. Until the wobbly Upstart broke his momentum. Twice.

Trip handicapping aside, Itsaknockout is the faster horse. He’s also more versatile. And more likely to prevail in this rematch.

Upstart needs to be on or near the lead. But if he’s forced to accomplish that in a half faster than 1:12.0, he drifts and downshifts through the stretch.

The pace figures to be rapid in the Florida Derby. And Upstart figures to fade and finish behind Itsaknockout, and possibly even up-and-comers Ami’s Flatter and Materiality.

Bettors should see Upstart’s favoritism as an opportunity to grab a nice price on more talented horses.

Roger LeBlanc
March 27, 2015