Upstart is hoping to become the first New York-bred winner of the Kentucky Derby since Funny Cide, who won the roses in 2003. He has already won a race named in that gelding’s honor, a $200,000, 6 1/2-furlong sprint for state-breds at Saratoga last August.
Nine days before that win, Upstart thrashed state-bred maidens by more than five lengths. The subsequent win in the Funny Cide, which garnered a 106 BRIS Speed rating, convinced his connections to test him against open company in his next start.
That race turned out to be the Champagne at Belmont, and the son of Flatter turned in a good effort to finish second to Daredevil by 2 1/2 lengths over a sloppy track. Upstart was then off to Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and again he turned in a fine effort to be third despite a slow start and a bumping episode. Indeed, the colt was only a nose behind runner-up Carpe Diem.
Upstart kicked off his three-year-old campaign in the January 24 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park, and his rivals proved no match in the 1 1/16-mile event as he drew off to win by 5 1/2 lengths. He earned a 105 BRIS Speed rating.
Upstart regressed some in the February 21 Fountain of Youth, but was still good enough to cross the wire first in that leading Florida Derby prep. However, the stewards judged him guilty of interfering with Itsaknockout in the stretch and demoted Upstart to second in a highly controversial decision. Upstart was 2 3/4 lengths ahead of that rival at the finish and appeared clearly best despite the modest altercation.
Upstart turned in his final prep in the $1 million Florida Derby on March 28. Hindered somewhat by a wide post, he could not overtake the lightly-raced Materiality in the stretch and settled for second.