(Giant’s Causeway x Rebridled Dreams, by Unbridled’s Song)
- Trainer: Todd Pletcher (3rd, 10th, 12th, and 17th in 2014 with Danza, We Miss Artie, Intense Holiday, and Vinceremos. Won in 2005 with Super Saver)
- Jockey: John Velazquez (12th last year with Intense Holiday. Won in 2011 with Animal Kingdom)
- Owned by: WinStar Farm & Stonestreet Stables
- Record: 5:4-1-0
- Best speed figures: 95 Beyer, 110 Equibase, 102 Brisnet
Background: The most expensive horse in the Kentucky Derby field when purchased for a whopping $1.6 million as a two-year-old, the winner of the Tampa Bay Derby (II) and Blue Grass Stakes (I) will greet the gate with some outstanding credentials given his somewhat mild underdog odds– a G1 winner at age 2 and 3, with his only loss coming in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (I) where he was still a good runner-up. Jockey John Velazquez had his pick of the Todd Pletcher-trained contingent and he picked this colt to ride in the Derby. Majority owner WinStar has found Pletcher success before in the Kentucky Derby when Super Saver won it in 2005– can lightning strike twice?
Prep Schedule: Never sent off at less than heavy favoritism, Carpe Diem won his debut race at Saratoga on September 1, breaking on top in the 5 ½ furlong event to wire the field by 2 ½ lengths, beating future Swale Stakes (II) winner Ready for Rye. He graduated from his graded stakes debut a month later with honors at Keeneland in the G1 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity, capturing that 1 1/16 mile event by an easy 6 ¼ lengths over Mr. Z. Heading to Santa Anita as the favorite to win, Carpe Diem broke towards the back of the field and made up ground late to run 2nd some 6 lengths behind Texas Red to finish his juvenile career.
Giving the colt a sizeable breather, Carpe Diem did not debut as a three-year-old until the Tampa Bay Derby (II) in March. He aced that event with his usual dominance, laying off the pace before moving at the top of the stretch to win by 5 with future Lexington Stakes (III) winner Divining Rod in 3rd. Moving up to 9 furlongs for the Blue Grass Stakes (I) at Keeneland, he stalked and moved up again, winning by 3 lengths.
Pedigree: Largely spotless as far as inbreeding goes early on, Carpe Diem does hail back to Northern Dancer twice early on. His dam side offers Turn To in the back, but again, he is overall pretty exempt from the “holy inbreeding!” trend some people love.
Sire Giant’s Causeway needs little introduction as a living legend among breeding stallions. A ruthless and multiple Group 1 winner on the grass in Europe, he ran 2nd to Tiznow in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic and has been a staple in American breeding across all surfaces and distances since his retirement. With progeny like G1 winners Take Charge Brandi, Giant Oak, Imagining, Creative Cause, Fed Biz, and Frost Giant with more standouts coming every year, it’s nearly impossible to dismiss him as a Derby-worthy sire who has yet to make that statement. A son of the prolific Storm Cat and graded stakes winner Mariah’s Storm (by Rahy), he comes from a great sire line and a standout female family with mentionables such as champion juvenile filly Dearly Precious, Pocahontas, and Prioress winner Itsabet.
Stakes winner Rebridled Dreams brings in the heavy artillery with the Unbridled-Danzig cross, being a daughter of deceased super sire and G1 winner Unbridled’s Song. Dam Key Cents raced 41 times with 13 wins, sired by the lightly raced Danzig stallion Corridor Key out of the unraced Come My Prince, a daughter of Prince John (Princequillo/Count Fleet) out of a Turn To mare. Carpe Diem as well as her other son J Bs Thunder won the G1 Breeders’ Futurity two-year-old race at Keeneland.
Estimated TrueNicks Rating: B Variant 1.76
Dosage Index: 1.83
Running Style: Adaptable, stalking
Pros: With a good trip, Carpe Diem has never been truly challenged and has shown excellent form and has the ideal stalking style that wins many Kentucky Derbies. Being that this will be his third start off the layoff, he will likely be more than ready to fire a big effort.
Cons: He’s been brilliant, but over fields that have been less than outstanding, with most horses he’s beaten not likely to show up in the Kentucky Derby because of a lack of points (aka talent). There has also been disagreement among popular industry speed figures as to how good his Blue Grass win was, with Beyer rating it a paltry 95– not really what you want to see from a top prospect in their last start before the Derby.
Final Word: While Carpe Diem hasn’t been *really* challenged just yet, his performance in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile showcased he can overcome a less-than-ideal trip to still run on strong in a large field. Todd Pletcher has several horses in this year’s running, but seems to give special attention to this colt who has been kept training away from his other prospects. It may mean nothing, but it’s just interesting to note. If speed figures don’t mean much to you, this is a great horse to consider and he’ll likely get a great price at the windows. All signs point to Carpe Diem putting in his best run where it counts– somewhere up front at the top of the lane.