The co-highest priced horse at this year's OBS March 2-year-olds in training sale has already proven himself one of the best top-end investment of the 2014 season.
Carpe Diem, purchased for $1.6 million by WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stables this March, has an eventual place in the stallion barn and likely trip to California in his future after the son of Giant's Causeway delivered a 61⁄4-length victory in Saturday's Grade I, $500,000 Claiborne Breeders' Futurity for 2-year-olds at Keeneland.
The 11⁄16-mile Breeders' Futurity was one of five graded stakes on a card that saw Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez sweep all three Grade I contests, including the $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile aboard champion Wise Dan.
Velazquez has quite the budding star beneath him in Carpe Diem.
The chestnut colt was making his second start after breaking his maiden at first asking on Sept. 1, and advanced handily after sitting just off previously unbeaten Conquest Tsunami through an opening half in 48.09.
Once Carpe Diem took command with about five-sixteenths to run, the race favorite made a case to be considered a leading contender for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile with the way he kept striding out en route to hitting the wire in 1:43.38.
"We were the underbidders on him as a yearling so we followed him right along," said WinStar Farm president Elliott Walden. "When we saw him in March, we were like 'Oh man. This horse is special.'
"He settled really nicely and it looked like Johnny had control of the race the whole way. We were excited about winning this race from a stallion's perspective; this puts him in the stallion barn."
Mr. Z made a game run under jockey Jon Court to get second with Bold Conquest third.
Dayatthespa took good
It is going to be hard enough for Dayatthespa's owners to part ways with her when she goes through the ring at next month's Fasig-Tipton November sale. The 5-year-old daughter of City Zip added to what will be a bittersweet moment when she scored a 11⁄4 length victory over rival and defending race winner Better Lucky in the Grade I, $400,000 First Lady Stakes.
The Keeneland turf has been good to the chestnut mare as she notched her first Grade I victory in the 2012 edition of the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup. Injuries, most notably a tendon issue, have set her back at various points but the Chad Brown trainee is now potentially slated for a start in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf after her tenth win in 17 career starts.
With Velazquez up, Dayatthespa sat just off pacesetter Istanford before taking over for good near the three-sixteenths pole, hitting the line in 1:35.21 for the one-mile test over a course rated good.
"Horses like her don't come along very often," co-owner Peter Bradley said. "She's special. If you get her to settle, she's a bear."
Leigh Court reigns in TCA
Josie Carroll trainee Leigh Court advanced three-wide on the final turn to overtake race favorite Stonetastic on her way to earning a three-length victory in the Grade II, $200,000 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes going six furlongs on the main track.
Sent off at 5-to-1 odds, Leigh Court came into the TCA with four wins in five starts and is likely bound for an outing in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita Park.
The 4-year-old daughter of Grand Slam had won the Grade III Seaway at Woodbine on Aug. 24 and was making her first start on dirt since running in an allowance race at Fair Grounds in March 2013.
"I've been telling Josie she's as good as I've ever sat on, and she showed it today," jockey Gary Boulanger said.
No N ay Never takes Woodford off the layoff
Race favorite No Nay Never dueled with Spring to the Sky through a half in 44.40 and had enough to hold off a late charge from 56-to-1 shot Mongol Bull and win the Grade III, $150,000 Woodford. No Nay Never went 51⁄2 furlongs on the turf to win by half a length.
The winner of the Group I Prix Morny at Deauville last August, No Nay Never was making his first start since running second in the Grade II Swale Stakes on March 1. The 3-year-old son of Scat Daddy is now unbeaten in three career tries on the turf, though trainer Wesley Ward said a start over the main track in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita Park in November would likely be next.