The third-place finisher in the Tampa Bay Derby may run next in the Grade III Coolmore Lexington on April 11, with the middle jewel of the Triple Crown -- the Preakness -- the primary objective.
Divining Rod, who finished second in the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes and third in the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby, is among nine 3-year-olds nominated to the Triple Crown during the late period that closed Monday.
The early nomination period had closed Jan. 17 with 429 horses made eligible to the Triple Crown races at a fee of $600. The late nomination fee was $6,000. Other late nominees included Dubai Sky, winner of last weekend’s Grade III Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park, and I Spent It, winner of the Grade II Saratoga Special as a 2-year-old.
Divining Rod, a Kentucky-bred son of Tapit out of the Catienus mare Precious Kitten, is owned by the Lael Stables of his breeders, Mr. and Mrs. M. Roy Jackson, and trained by Arnaud Delacour.
Divining Rod, who is 1-for-4 lifetime and has yet to finish worse than third, breezed four furlongs in 49.80 seconds Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs prior to the decision to nominate. The first leg of the Triple Crown is the May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, but Delacour indicated it is more likely Divining Rod will be pointed toward the May 16 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in Baltimore.
“We’re planning to breeze him here again on Saturday, but we might move that up to Friday because rain is forecast,” Delacour said. “If that goes well and we’re happy with everything, he’ll go to Keeneland on Monday.
“Right now, I’m thinking about the (Grade III, $250,000) Coolmore Lexington on April 11 for his next start. The timing is right – about five weeks after the Tampa Bay Derby and five weeks before the Preakness – but we’re keeping all our options open.”
Delacour said although he and the Jacksons have not ruled out competing in the Kentucky Derby, “it’s not the objective right now.”
Divining Rod wore front bar shoes in the Tampa Bay Derby because of quarter-cracks and continues to train in them, but probably won’t run in them in his next race. “We just need to keep some stability in his feet until the next race, but I think by then they will be in better shape and he can go back to regular shoeing.
“The Tampa Bay Derby, to me, was more a question of the set-up than running in bar shoes. He was pressured on the lead, and considering he kept third place after they went so fast in front, I thought it was a pretty good performance. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet, and I hope he can still improve,” Delacour said.
The winner of the Tampa Bay Derby, Carpe Diem, is being pointed toward the Grade I, $1-million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 4. The Tampa Bay Derby runner-up, Ami’s Flatter, is entered in Saturday’s Grade I, $1-million Besilu Stables Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.