HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Upstart strutted into the winner's circle, took a look around at the people in the stands and seemed to be basking in the moment.
That didn't surprise his trainer.
"He's a bit of a punk," trainer Richard Violette said. "He's pretty cocky."
After performances like the one Upstart turned in at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, Violette won't mind dealing with a little attitude.
Upstart pulled away with ease in the stretch and coasted to a win in the $400,000 Grade 2 Holy Bull, one of the early races where horses earn points that will determine the field for the Kentucky Derby. It was the third win in five outings for Upstart, who responded perfectly when jockey Jose Ortiz told him it was time to move.
"By the half-mile pole I let him go and said, 'Let's see what we have here,'" Ortiz said. "And when we turned for home we rolled."
Upstart took advantage of some slower-than-expected early fractions and finished the 1 1-16 miles in 1:43.61, returning $6.20 for the win. Frosted - ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., the winning jockey's brother - went off as the 3-2 favorite but finished second, 5 1/2-lengths back, and Bluegrass Singer was third.
"You have to get educated as you go along this trail," said Kiaran McLaughlin, Frosted's trainer. "The winner was impressive."
Upstart has never finished worse than third and that was in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile, the race that really suggested he would be a factor on this year's Triple Crown trail. His next start could come in either the Fountain of Youth or the Florida Derby, both at Gulfstream, or the Gotham at Aqueduct.
Violette, who serves as president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said he would have no issue with going to Aqueduct - even though the track has been reeling from a recent stretch of 12 equine deaths in 22 racing days, which prompted the New York Racing Association to announce emergency measures and new policies earlier this month.
"There is nothing wrong with the racetrack. Period," Violette said.
Still, it wouldn't be a surprise if Upstart remained at Gulfstream for the foreseeable future - especially since he likely is already on the cusp of having enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby field.
"We'll see how he bounces off this and follow his lead," Violette said.
The Holy Bull was one of five stakes for 3-year-olds on the card at Gulfstream on Saturday.
Birdatthewire, a 12-1 shot, pulled off an upset and paid $26.80 in the Grade 2, $200,000 Forward Gal, for fillies and contested over seven furlongs.
Barbados ($3.40) held off X Y Jet at the line to win the Grade 3, $150,000 Hutcheson, run at seven furlongs. Consumer Credit ($5.60) beat Quality Rocks by a length in the Grade 3, $100,000 Sweetest Chant, a mile-long race on the turf for fillies. And in the finale, Dubai Sky ($12.60) nipped Courtier - both horses are trained by Bill Mott - in a photo finish to win the $100,000 Kitten's Joy Stakes on the turf.
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