When you drop $350,000 on a yearling, you demonstrate a high level of confidence in a horse.
But you don’t really know until they get on the track.
Itsaknockout is still very much a work in progress, with just two career starts, but Starlight Racing is gaining confidence in the son of Lemon Drop Kid to match the price they paid for him at the 2013 Saratoga Selected Yearling Sale.
He’s undefeated in two starts, and will try stakes company for the first time as the 4-1 third choice on the morning line for the Grade II Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.
The auction price is right around the top end of what Starlight spends on yearlings.
It’s still way too early to tell how good Itsaknockout could be, but Don Lucarelli of Duanesburg, Starlight co-managing partner, said he’s shown he deserves a crack at the Fountain of Youth, after breaking his maiden by a nose in December and graduating through a first-level allowance by 51⁄4 lengths on Jan. 4.
“The fact that he took his time getting to the track and he’s had enough time since his last start, we’re really looking for a big effort,” he said. “It’s a big class check, but you’ve got to run against the good ones to see if you’re one of them.”
The Fountain of Youth is part of the first wave of Kentucky Derby preps as the qualifying schedule shifts from the Prep Season to the Championship Series, carrying greater qualifying points. The winners of the Fountain of Youth and Saturday’s Risen Star at Fair Grounds will earn 50 points, all but guaranteeing entry to the Derby starting gate on May 2.
Starlight has a double whammy on the Gulfstream card, as they will also send out Eskenformoney in the Grade II Davona Dale for 3-year-old fillies. She’s part of the first crop of horses owned by the Starlight offshoot, StarLadies, of which Lucarelli’s wife, Barbara, is a co-managing partner.
Among those Itsaknockout will face in the eight-horse Fountain of Youth field are 8-5 favorite Upstart, the New York-bred with a sparkling resume in five starts, and Frosted, runner-up to Upstart in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream.
“They have more seasoning than we do, but I do like the fact that he’s been training well and the way he won his last start and that he showed he’s able to rate,” Lucarelli said. “His pedigree says he’ll get two turns. He’s actually carrying a lot of weight. We’re cautiously optimistic.”
“He’s been a real pleasure to train, and a very straightforward, professional horse that comes out and enjoys his work every day,” trainer Todd Pletcher told the Gulfstream Park press office. “So far, he’s been impressive in his two starts, so this will be a big test of class.”
Starlight had considered running Itsaknockout in the Risen Star, but Lucarelli said they decided to keep him on the track where he’s comfortable.
The 10-horse field for the Risen Star, is wide open and less salty than that for the Fountain of Youth.
Imperia is the 7-2 favorite in his 2015 debut off a second in the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs in November.
Lecomte winner International Star is 9-2, and Tiznow R J, J S Bach and War Story are all 5-1.
The Fountain of Youth/Davona Dale card will also include five other graded stakes and will mark the 2015 season debut of dual Eclipse Award winner Main Sequence, in the Grade II Mac Diarmida.
His four-race undefeated 2014 included the Sword Dancer at Saratoga Race Course and the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
AROUND THE TRACKS
It took two weeks, but Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens finally won his 5,000th career race last Friday, aboard 4-5 betting favorite Catch a Flight by a neck in the fourth race at Santa Anita. . . .
The Southwest Stakes, part of the Derby Prep Season, has been rescheduled for Sunday, after Oaklawn Park canceled racing on Monday due to icy weather. . . .
Starlight’s 3-year-old Giant’s Causeway filly, Itsonlyactingdad, was named by partner Chris Mara, the vice president for player evaluation for the New York Giants.
The name is a reference to his daughter, Rooney, who starred in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”
The filly just missed breaking her maiden in her career debut at Gulfstream on Jan. 25.