TODD PLETCHER’S ITS AKNOCKOUT HANDED DQ VICTORY IN FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH:
In a verdict that no one was particularly happy with Todd Pletcher’s Itsaknockout took a victory by disqualification in Saturday’s Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Florida’s Gulfstream Park. Trainer Rick Violette’s Upstart was the first horse over the finish line but was disqualified by track stewards for ‘interference’.
The race was run on a sluggish track surface that was listed as ‘fast’ but looked to be anything but. Trackside observers noted that the track surface looked fine earlier in the card but its condition may have changed precipitously during a two hour span in which no races were run on it. In this period, two races were contested on the turf track at Gulfstream. In other words, the track may have been ‘fast’ earlier in the afternoon but looked to bedevil most of the field during the running of the Fountain of Youth.
In fact, the only horse that looked to be comfortable with the track was Frosted, who quickly went to the front and seemed to be in control of the race. Instead, he faded badly near the top of the stretch which opened the door for a group of three horses—including Itsaknockout and Upstart—to sail past.
That’s when the drama began. Upstart moved ahead of Itsaknockout and crossed the finish line first. While it was apparent that the two horses had made contact in the deep stretch after Upstart went wide right it didn’t look like it had caused Itsaknockout to break stride. Most importantly, it didn’t appear to have changed the finish order which is the ‘litmus test’ for determining the validity of an interference claim.
The Gulfstream Park stewards felt otherwise, disqualifying Upstart for interference and awarding the disqualification victory to Itsaknockout. Frammento closed from the rear of the eight horse field to finish third just ahead of the aforementioned Frosted. Gorgeous Bird was fifth with the rest of the finishing order comprised of Bluegrass Singer, Juan and Bina, and Danny Boy.
Not only did the connections of Itsaknockout receive an unexpected financial windfall by virtue of the DQ victory it also produced a shakeup in Kentucky Derby qualification points. First place earned 50 qualification points toward the May 2 Kentucky Derby (Bet on the Kentucky Derby) while second place earned 20 points. Third and fourth were good for 10 and 5 points respectively. First place earned $240,560 while second place was worth $77,600.
So instead of receiving 50 qualification points for a victory Upstart receives twenty for the second place finish. He’s still in third place in the Derby Qualification standings but that’s a very tenuous position with point values in upcoming prep races increasing. Itsaknockout has gone from a ‘non-factor’ with zero points to the second ranked horse in the standings. International Star currently leads the qualification standings with 71 points.
Team Pletcher said the right things following the DQ win. Todd Pletcher called the ruling a ‘jump ball’ and sounded more pleased that Itsaknockout had performed well in his first race over two turns and his first stakes competition. He did concede that he ‘felt bad’ for the connections of Upstart without mentioning Violette by name. Jockey Luis Saiz called it a ‘tough decision’ but claimed that
“The other horse came out and bothered me. I couldn’t ride my horse.”