Upstart has established himself as a heavyweight Kentucky Derby contender

Profile Picture: James Scully

November 20th, 2014


Flatter—Party Silks, by Touch Gold


Ralph M. Evans


Mrs. Gerald A. Nielsen


Richard Violette Jr.

Best BRIS Speed rating

106 (Funny Cide)




Upstart concluded his two-year-old season in fine fashion, recording a runner-up in the Champagne (G1) and a third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and is eligible to show more as a three-year-old.

The dark bay colt opened his racing career at Saratoga on August 15, debuting against New York-bred rivals in a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight, and was forced to steady in traffic rounding the far turn before accelerating quickly to the lead in upper stretch, winning from just off the pace by a widening 5 ¼-length margin.

Upstart carried his form forward nine days later, posting a determined one-length decision in the restricted 6 ½-furlong Funny Cide. All out to get up late, he earned him a whopping 106 BRIS Speed rating, one of the top figures by any two-year-old of 2014.

Making his first start against open rivals in the one-mile Champagne on a sloppy track, Upstart left a favorable impression rallying boldly into contention leaving the far turn. He threatened to overhaul Daredevil in midstretch before settling for second, 2 ½ lengths back of the impressive winner and 12 ¾ lengths clear of third.

The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile marked his first attempt at two turns and Upstart drew poorly in post 11 for the 1 1/16-mile race.  And he broke a step slowly, rushing forward while extremely wide on the first turn to reach a striking position entering the backstretch.

Upstart battled the entire way despite a ridiculously wide trip, missing second in the final strides to the favored Carpe Diem, and netted outstanding BRIS E1 and E2 Pace ratings of 104 and 105. Only 1 ½ lengths back in fourth after the opening half-mile, Upstart was the only runner up close at that point that didn’t fade significantly late.

He’s tried hard in all four career starts.


Based in New York, trainer Richard Violette Jr. is well-known in the industry as the president of the National Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. He’s sent out two previous Kentucky Derby starters: Read the Footnotes, seventh in 2004; and multiple graded stakes winner Samraat, fifth in 2014.

As of November 20, Violette has won 27 of 197 starts in 2014 (14 percent win rate) and his $2,665,152 in stable earnings ranks 47th among 6,185 trainers in North America. Violette owns 782 career wins, including more than 30 graded stakes victories.

An up-and-coming member of the New York jockey colony, Jose Ortiz also served as the regular rider of Samraat for Violette, making his Kentucky Derby debut in 2014. The 21-year-old Puerto Rico native is the younger brother of Irad Ortiz Jr., the nation’s third leading rider by earnings in 2014 and jockey of possible two-year-old filly champion Lady Eli.

Like his brother, Jose established himself as a national presence in 2014. He ranks fifth nationally by earnings ($14.3 million), capturing 191 of 1,120 starts (17 percent win) through November 20, and rode in his first Breeders’ Cup. He figures to have a bright future.

Pedigree/Sales History

Upstart was bred in New York by Mrs. Gerald A. Nielsen, but his sire, Flatter, stands at Claiborne Farm in Central Kentucky for a $20,000 stud fee (2015). A son of A.P. Indy, Flatter won four of six starts in an abbreviated racing career, finishing third in his lone stakes outing, the 1 3/16-mile Washington Park H. (G2). His best offspring include the late-developing Flat Out, a two-time winner of the 1 ¼-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) and earner of more than $3.6 million.

Flatter is out of the Mr. Prospector mare Praise, who is also the dam of Grade 2 winner and Santa Anita H. (G1) runner-up Congrats, an accomplished stallion who stands at WinStar Farm.

Upstart is out of the unraced mare Party Silks, a daughter of 1997 Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold. A nice mix of speed is added to the bloodlines via Upstart’s second maternal dam, Intend to Win, a daughter of sprint champion Housebuster.

There are no pedigree concerns surrounding Upstart’s threshold for the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby distance.

Upstart was purchased for $130,000 as a yearling at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred August sale.


Upstart appears to have plenty going for him at this stage of his career. As a son of Flatter, it’s easy to envision further improvement as he gets older and his BRIS Speed and Pace numbers stamp him as an elite member of his two-year-old class. He’s also shown the ability to overcome adversity.

Given his lack of a graded stakes win, Upstart could be a little overlooked in terms of Kentucky Derby future wagering; that only adds to his appeal.

The exciting prospect could reappear in a Gulfstream Park stakes race, but the New York-based colt will be pointed toward the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct for his final Kentucky Derby prep.