Upstart Reappears in Razorback Handicap
Upstart Reappears in Razorback Handicap: Ralph M. Evan’s Upstart once won the Holy Bull Stakes (GII), before placing in the Fountain of Youth (GII) and Florida Derby (GI), to catapult himself as a leading 3-year-old horse last year. After finishing 18th in the Kentucky Derby (GI) though, the momentum stopped and he disappointed fans the rest of the season.
After a six-month break, Upstart starts a new campaign in the $350,000 Razorback Handicap (GIII) on Saturday at Oaklawn Park. Joe Bravo will pilot the ridgling. Based on class, Upstart rates as the top contender.
First of all, cross out the poor effort in the Kentucky Derby. Horses run their career best and worst races in that spot because of the uniqueness of the event (up to 20 horses going 10 furlongs). He tailed off later in the season, but with the Derby crossed out, nothing worse than a fifth-place finish shows using BRIS past performances.
Upstart’s race in the Holy Bull sticks out because he defeated Frosted, who later proved himself to be a top-tier colt, by over five lengths. In the Fountain of Youth, Upstart finished ahead of Itsaknockout only to be disqualified by a controversial call. Itsaknockout ran well enough since then, although has yet to pick up another stakes win.
Handicappers criticized Upstart’s second-place finish in the Florida Derby, won by Materiality, because they refused to believe the high speed figure. Some felt the Gulfstream prep races were the weakest in the country. Yet Frosted, who ran in the Holy Bull and lost, later traveled to Aqueduct for the Wood Memorial (G) and dominated the field.
Materiality finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby in his next start after a poor break and a troubled trip. He threw in a clunker in the Belmont Stakes (GI) afterwards against American Pharoah, but every now and then Todd Pletcher-trained horses run poorly for no reason, and not because the prior talent displayed was not legitimate.
Upstart’s three post-Kentucky Derby races were not completely terrible. He finished third to American Pharoah and Keen Ice in the Haskell (GI) at Monmouth Park, then fourth to the same two horses plus Frosted in the Travers (GI) at Saratoga. The wheels came off in the Pennsylvania Derby (GII) when he ran fifth, and Upstart went on the shelf.
WIth a new year comes a new beginning, although handicappers might find this Oaklawn spot strange given Violette is not based here. According to a press release, he liked the timing of this race.
“I was a couple of weeks behind,” Violette said. “This looks like a pretty good spot. We’ll find out if he likes the race track and if we want to head back for the [Oaklawn] Handicap.”
If Upstart turns in one of his better races, he should win the Razorback.
Time to discuss the other contenders. Does anyone else find it strange how Otabek Umarov-trained horses in this spot were once claimers and transformed into stakes runners?
For example, look at La Macchina’s past performances. He lost two different claiming races at the $30k level just last fall! He lost those races while running for high-percentage trainers Chris Richards and Michael Maker.
Under Umarov, La Macchina is suddenly 2 for 2 and aiming for a graded stakes win. Amazingly, this gelding who also lost a maiden claiming race last August, has a legitimate chance in the Razorback.
Umarov’s Looks to Spare appears similar. One year ago, he lost an $8k optional claiming race at Hawthorne, before dropping to a non-optional claiming race at the same racetrack for a lower tag and winning by two lengths. How did Looks to Spare finish third in the Clark Handicap (GI) at Churchill Downs later in the year?
The progression of Umarov’s horses defies all logic!
Upstart is the best choice in the Razorback, along with the aforementioned Umarov runners. In addition, pay close attention to Far Right, who overcame a wide trip last time, and Shotgun Kowboy. If Upstart can defeat the ex-claimers and those other two horses, he will be on the right track for the season.
Razorback Handicap 2016 Post Positions & Odds
Race 8 4:57 PM CT
1 Incremental 8-1 De La Cruz/Umarov
1A 3 La Macchina 8-1 Hill/Umarov
1X 10 Looks to Spare 8-1 Rocco, Jr./Umarov
2 Smack Smack 10-1 Laviolette/Von Hemel
4 Carve 4-1 Nakatani/Asmussen
5 Shotgun Kowboy 6-1 Loveberry/Calhoun
6 Idolo Porteno 15-1 Geroux/Correas, IV
7 Far Right 3-1 Ortiz, Jr./Moquett
8 Upstart 5-2 Bravo/Violette, Jr.
9 Domain’s Rap 6-1 Vazquez/Villafranco
A – Coupled Entries – 1 – Incremental, 1A – La Macchina, 1X – Looks to Spare