Upstart Up to the Task in the Razorback

Upstart Wins the Razorback

Upstart makes his 2016 debut a winning one with a come-from-behind victory over Domain’s Rap in the Grade II Razorback Handicap on Saturday (photo via www.oaklawn.com).

Ralph Evans’ Upstart was a bright star on last year’s Triple Crown Trail after winning the Holy Bull Stakes (GIII) and Fountain of Youth Stakes (GII) (second after a DQ), and finishing second in the Florida Derby (GI). But after an 18th- and last-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, the flashy son of Flatter couldn’t find a way to put things together successfully again and, unfortunately, finished his sophomore season winless in three subsequent graded-stakes starts.

After those disappointing efforts, trainer Rick Violette decided a nice, long rest was in Upstart’s best interests and the colt spent six months on the shelf resting and relaxing, gearing up for what his connections hoped was a brighter four-year-old campaign and a return to the form he’d shown last year. The decision proved fruitful as in his first start of 2016, Upstart earned an impressive victory by a length in the $350,000 Razorback Handicap (GII) at Oaklawn Park.

Under jockey Joe Bravo, Upstart was back in his familiar spot early, content to sit near the back of the pack in the early going while Shotgun Kowboy set all the pace in splits of :23.15, :47.50 and 1:12.94. As the frontrunners rounded the bend, Upstart was full of his patented late run and was swung wide for clear running room. Under a deliberate ride from Bravo, he reached the lead in time to log a mile 1:37.77 before pulling away to the clear victory, stopping the clock in 1:44.12 for the 1 1/16-mile distance.

Upstart surges on the outside to win the 2016 Razorback Handicap.

Upstart surges on the outside to win the 2016 Razorback Handicap.

“I’m going to give full credit to the whole Rick Violette team for bringing this horse together,” Bravo said. “When you’re off that long, it’s tough to get a horse ready to run. He left there really nicely, relaxed really good the first turn. Probably a little farther back than Rick wanted. But, he was so comfortable and relaxed. I was really happy the way he was going. You saw the move he made around the turn. He’s back. He’s a pretty nice horse. He proved it to everybody. I’m just glad he’s a big, happy horse for the rest of the season.”

Upstart, the 5-2 favorite despite the layoff, returned $7.20, $4.80, and $4.40. Runner-up Domain’s Rap finished second at odds of 9-1, completing an $87.80 exacta and returning $8.20 and $5.80. Idolo Porteno, a grade I winner in Argentina making his first start in North America, finished another half-length back in third, and was good for $9.40 at 10-1. The trifecta paid $480.90.

Margaret Ransom
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters, Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.

After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager. She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several race horse retirement organizations, including CARMA.

Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull as her favorite horse of all time. She lives in Pasadena with her longtime beau, Tony, three Australian Shepherds and one Golden Retriever.