Trainer Todd Pletcher said he was looking for a “maintenance-type” workout from Grade II Tampa Bay Derby winner Carpe Diem this morning at Keeneland in Lexington.
Afterward, Pletcher said he got what he wanted. The goal now is enough improvement to land the 3-year-old colt in the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs on May 2 in the 141st edition of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands.
Carpe Diem, whose five-length tally in the March 7 Tampa Bay Downs showcase preceded his victory in the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes on April 4 at Keeneland, posted a five-furlong time of 1:00 2/5 before galloping out in 1:13 4/5 for six furlongs with regular pilot and Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez aboard.
Carpe Diem, who is owned by Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables, LLC and Kenny Troutt’s WinStar Farm, LLC, is bidding to become the third horse since 2007 to use the Tampa Bay Derby as a stepping stone to a victory in the Run for the Roses.
Street Sense won both races eight years ago, while Super Saver – trained by Pletcher – finished third in the 2010 Tampa Bay Derby before his Kentucky Derby triumph.
“I thought (Carpe Diem) worked super,” Pletcher, who flew to Lexington in Banke’s private airplane after watching three of his other Kentucky Derby candidates breeze at Palm Beach Downs in Delray Beach, Fla., told Blood-Horse.
“Seemed like his energy level is good and he galloped out really well,” Pletcher said. “He was kind of hard to pull up in the end, which is always a good sign. In his particular case, with a month between races, we’re just looking for two maintenance works, and you could tell by the way he galloped out today – he was all the way back at the half-mile pole before Johnny could really get him pulled up – so he’s a fit horse.”
Carpe Diem’s closest competition in the Blue Grass, the Ontario-bred Danzig Moon – who finished a non-threatening fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby – worked five furlongs at Churchill Downs this morning in 58 seconds under regular jockey Julien Leparoux. He finished three lengths behind Carpe Diem in the Blue Grass, and could be peaking at precisely the right time.
Other top Kentucky Derby candidates to work today included Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Grade II Louisiana Derby winner International Star, who went five furlongs in 1:01 4/5 at Churchill; Pletcher’s Grade I Besilu Stables Florida Derby winner, Materiality (1:00.45), and Grade II Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth winner Itsaknockout (four furlongs in 48 seconds), along with his Louisiana Derby runner-up Stanford (1:00.45), all at Palm Beach Downs; and unbeaten Grade I Santa Anita Derby winner Dortmund, from the barn of Hall of Fame conditioner Bob Baffert, who went five furlongs in 58 4/5 at Santa Anita.
Each year, the Oldsmar oval replicates an authentic Run for the Roses atmosphere with a full card of Thoroughbred competition; parties large and small throughout the track; beautiful women in their spring dresses and finest hats; and the sale of mint juleps, the traditional beverage of the Kentucky Derby, in souvenir glasses.
The gates will open early May 2 and Tampa Bay Downs will present a full card of Thoroughbred action, before as many as 20 3-year-olds vie for a slice of horse racing immortality.
The Longines Kentucky Oaks for 3-year-old fillies will be contested Friday, May 1 at Churchill Downs. The field could include Include Betty, trained by perennial top Oldsmar conditioner Tom Proctor.
Under jockey Rosemary Homeister, Jr., Include Betty has blossomed as a 3-year-old, with a victory here on Jan. 3 in a maiden special weight event; a victory in the $100,000 Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs at a distance of a mile-and-40-yards on Jan. 31, at odds of 18-1; and a thrilling neck victory on April 4 at Oaklawn Park in the Grade III, $400,000 Fantasy Stakes at a mile-and-a-sixteenth, also at 18-1.
In addition to its full card on Kentucky Derby Day, Tampa Bay Downs will also conduct Thoroughbred racing on Kentucky Oaks Day and on Sunday, May 3. The track then will offer simulcast wagering only until the final day of the 2014-2015 meeting, which is Tuesday, June 30, the first day of the track’s annual two-day Summer Festival of Racing.
On today’s card, leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Antonio Gallardo rode two winners, giving him 131 for the meeting. The 27-year-old Spaniard, who has already clinched a second consecutive Oldsmar crown, is seeking to break Daniel Centeno’s single-season record of 144, set during the 2007-2008 meeting.
Gallardo won the fifth race aboard 3-year-old filly Call Me Clever for owner Juan Centeno and trainer Gerald Bennett. He added the seventh on 5-year-old gelding Evenanangelcanrun for owners Jagger, Inc., and Run To Win Stable and trainer Jamie Ness. Evenanangelcanrun was claimed from the race for $8,000 by trainer Dale Bennett for new owners Big Bang Racing, Nicholson Thoroughbreds, Equiforce, Gile and Leppanen.
Apprentice jockeys Janelle Campbell and Luis Figueroa posted victories, enabling Campbell to maintain a 12-11 lead in the competition for “top bug.” Campbell won the second race on the turf on 4-year-old gelding Bridles Holiday for owners Stanley Officina and Hemingway Racing and trainer Ian Hemingway.
Figueroa won the first race on H B Warrior, a 3-year-old colt bred in Florida by Horacio Barbaran, owned by his HB Thoroughbreds, LLC and trained by Barbaran. H B Warrior paid $92.40 to win as the longest shot in the race.
In the eighth race, the Lambholm South Race of the Week at a mile on the turf for horses 3-years-old-and-upward, 7-year-old gelding Paige Me charged up late to earn a two-and-a-quarter length victory from Film Making. Paige Me is owned and trained by Rory Barron and was ridden by Gary Wales.
Sunday’s 10-race Tampa Bay Downs card begins at 12:40 p.m. The feature is the eighth race, a $23,000 allowance at a mile on the turf for horses 4-years-old-and-upward. The 3-1 morning-line favorite in the 10-horse field is 6-year-old gelding Skiffs Brewmeister, owned by Double T Racing and trained by Kathleen O’Connell. Daniel Centeno will be aboard.
Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action and Three Card Poker in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.