His feed tub empty and the mood of those around him buoyant, multiple Grade I winner Carpe Diem was reported to be in good order on Easter Sunday morning, less than 24 hours after the son of Giant's Causeway locked down his status as a major Kentucky Derby contender with a three-length triumph in the Grade I, $1 million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.
"I thought he looked super this morning," trainer Todd Pletcher said between sets Sunday morning. "He, as usual, cleaned up his dinner and seemed to be in great form this morning."
There was no shortage of impressive Derby prep outings on Saturday, beginning with Frosted's triumph in the Grade I Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and capped off by unbeaten Dortmund putting in another beastmode outing in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby.
Sent off as the overwhelming favorite against seven others in the 11⁄8-miles Blue Grass Stakes, Carpe Diem settled right alongside pacesetter Ocho Ocho Ocho en route to coming home handily under jockey John Velazquez to score his fourth win from five career starts and second career Grade I triumph.
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Pletcher said Sunday that Carpe Diem did keep Velazquez busy due to his tendency to want to idle when he's taken the lead. The seven-time Eclipse Award winning trainer added, however, that the chestnut colt's handiness is what has put him in the top tier of a loaded 3-year-old division right now.
"I think he's versatile enough where when they go :24 and :48 he's going to find himself closer to the pace and if they go :23 and :46 I think he'll settle a little more mid pack," Pletcher said. "He showed that versatility in the Breeders' Cup (finishing second) and yet, he has enough speed to win going 5½ furlongs first time out at Saratoga. He's just a good horse that has several different gears."
Carpe Diem is owned by WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stables, who purchased him in partnership for $1.6 million at the 2014 OBS March 2-year-olds in training sale. Pletcher said the colt will likely stay at Keeneland for at least the next week, possibly two, before shipping up to Churchill Downs.
"He likes the surface here, we like the surface here," he said. "We'll decide whether we want to have two breezes at Churchill or just one."
Brereton Jones' Lovely Maria was also reported to be in good form Sunday morning after winning the Grade I, $500,000 Ashland Stakes Saturday to lock in her spot for the Kentucky Oaks.
"We haven't had her out yet, but she sure wasn't scared of her feed tub," laughed trainer Larry Jones, who conditions Lovely Maria.
Lovely Maria's Ashland victory gives Larry Jones a stellar, two-pronged attack for this year's Oaks, as her stablemate is multiple graded stakes winner I'm a Chatterbox.