Despite being the race favorite there were questions about Carpe Diem heading in to Saturday’s Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby. Carpe Diem had impressed as a two year old, winning the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Futurity before finishing second to Texas Red in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The issue wasn’t his performance as a two year old but the fact that he hadn’t raced since. Trainer Todd Pletcher wanted to ‘bring him along slowly’ and two months out from the Kentucky Derby there was some opinion that he was starting his three year old season too late to be a factor.
Those thoughts surfaced again near the start of the Tampa Bay Derby when Carpe Diem emphatically refused to enter the gate. He eventually made it in and from that point he ‘flipped the switch’ and transformed from a balky horse making his three year old debut to a monster that already ranks among the horses to beat at the Kentucky Derby. Carpe Diem maintained perfect position throughout the race before closing strong, eventually taking the win by five lengths and looking like he could have run the rest of the afternoon. If you missed out this time to bet on Carpe Diem, then make sure you don't miss out on Kentucky Derby. This site has a list of Kentucky Derby betting rules and types of bets you can place on horses.
Carpe Diem is owned by WinStar Farms and the stable’s President, Elliott Walden, said that railbirds had been telling him that his horse was the ‘best training in Florida’. He continued to explain that it’s one thing to hear that from third party observers but quite another to see the horse prove it on the track. Walden also brushed off any concern about Carpe Diem’s balky pre-race behavior saying that ‘he’s a little headstrong’.
Trainer Todd Pletcher won the Tampa Bay Derby for the third time in his career. He won previously with Limehouse (2004) and Verrazano (2013). Pletcher watched Carpe Diem give him victory number three via simulcast from Gulfstream Park.
The Tampa Bay Derby has become a good launching pad for a Kentucky Derby bid in recent years. The Pletcher trained Super Saver didn’t win the Tampa Bay Derby but peaked on the first Saturday in May to win the ‘Run for the Roses’. Street Sense also parlayed a Tampa Bay Derby run into a Kentucky Derby victory in 2007.