©2015 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
The “Road to the Kentucky Derby” express will log a lot of miles this Saturday with qualifying races on the east and west coast. At Tampa Bay Downs, Carpe Diem has been tagged as the 8-5 morning line favorite in what could be a very contentious 35th running of the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2). Post time for the race is 5:23 p.m. ET.
In my 2015 Kentucky Derby Outlook top ten list, Carpe Diem was ranked eighth and he was one of the few two year olds, I thought, who could be competitive on the trail as a three year old. However, the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) will be his first race this year and this field looks like a herd of talented young horses.
Carpe Diem comes into this race with a 2-1-0 record in three starts for trainer Todd Pletcher including a first-place finish in the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes (G1) at Keeneland Racecourse and a second-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park.
It remains to be seen whether Carpe Diem can secure the win in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) off of a four month layoff. Regular jockey John Velazquez returns for the mount and Cape Diem has fired three bullet works leading up to this race.
I look for Carpe Diem to be competitive.
Sam F. Davis champion Ocean Knight (2-1) and the second-place finisher, Diving Rod (6-1), also look like they will be competitive. Ocean Knight is undefeated in two starts for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin while Divining Rod has compiled a 1-1-1 record in three starts for trainer Arnoud Delacour.
Souper Colossal (6-1) was my long shot pick in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1) last November and he could be the controlling speed in this race. He comes in the Derby with a 4-0-0 record in five starts for trainer Edward Plesa, Jr., including a nice win last month in the Texas Glitter Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Souper Colossal is the fastest in this group and if he can carry his speed to 8½-furlongs, he should be competitive. A recent bullet work could have him ready to run another good race.
A long shot I like is Moonlight Bandit (20-1) who comes into this race with a 1-0-1 record in four starts for trainer Mark Casse. In his debut as a three year old last month, he finished third just 2½-lengths shy of victory.
I don’t think that Moonlight Bandit was going to catch the leader but I like the way he stayed close to the pace and the fractional splits of 1:35.49 for the mile and the final time of 1:41.62 makes him competitive with this group.
Moonlight Bandit has room to improve in his second start of the year and a recent bullet work could have him ready to run a good race.
The running of the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and Risen Star Stakes (G2) on February 21 began the Kentucky Derby Championship Series consisting of 16 races and the winners in those races will receive 50 points, the second-place finisher will receive 20 points, the third-place finisher will receive 10 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive 5 points.
Halfway through this series beginning with the UAE Derby (G2), Florida Derby (G1) and Louisiana Derby (G2) on March 28, the points will increase to 100 points for the winner, 40 points for second place, 20 points for third and 10 points for fourth place.
Calculator, ranked 5th in the January 24 Kentucky Derby point standings, is sidelined with an injury for six months and he’s off the Derby trail. Leave the Light On, ranked 13th, is also off the trail.
Texas Red is sidelined with a foot abscess but could, perhaps, return to racing in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) or Arkansas Derby (G1).
Here’s a look at the current top twenty Derby qualifiers
2015 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Individual Leaders ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. International Star, 71, Mike Maker, $490,979
2. Itsaknockout, 50, Todd Pletcher, $240,500
3. Upstart, 36, Rick Violette Jr., $615,680
4. El Kabeir, 25, John Terranova II, $380,792
5. War Story, 24, Tom Amoss, $120,000
6. Far Right, 22, Ron Moquett, $385,906
7. Dortmund, 20, Bob Baffert, $390,000
8. Carpe Diem, 14, Todd Pletcher, $660,000
9. Mr. Z, 14, D. Wayne Lukas, $518,326
10. Frosted, 13, Kiaran McLaughlin, $176,200
11. Texas Red, 12, Keith Desormeaux, $1,176,000
12. Keen Ice, 12, Dale Romans, $106,520
13. Ocho Ocho Ocho, 10, Jim Cassidy, $660,000
14. American Pharoah, 10, Bob Baffert, $360,000
15. Daredevil, 10, Todd Pletcher, $300,000
16. Far From Over, 10, Todd Pletcher, $150,000
17. Metaboss, 10, Jeff Bonde, $126,000
18. Lucky Player, 10, Steve Asmussen, $97,231
19. Frammento, 10, Nick Zito, $42,000
20. Firing Line, 8, Simon Callaghan, $130,000