Carpe Diem a picture of power

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

April 18th, 2015

I'm not a professional work watcher, nor do I play one on TV. And as a further disclaimer, I've been a Carpe Diem fan since his terrific debut sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs at Saratoga.

But the Kentucky Derby (G1) contender could hardly have made a better impression in his Saturday drill on a picture-perfect spring morning at Keeneland.

The striking son of Giant's Causeway was posting his first work back since his three-length conquest of the April 4 Blue Grass (G1). Originally scheduled for Sunday morning at 6:30, the breeze was moved up a day in anticipation of rain arriving in the Lexington, Kentucky, area.

Yet before the change in plan could be finalized, logistics had to be ironed out.

Trainer Todd Pletcher was at Palm Beach Downs earlier Saturday morning to supervise works turned in by three other Derby hopefuls -- Materiality, Stanford and Itsaknockout. Pletcher then hopped aboard Barbara Banke's plane to fly to Lexington and watch Carpe Diem, who is co-owned by WinStar Farm and Banke's Stonestreet Stables.

To allow sufficient time for Pletcher to arrive, Carpe Diem's work was set for 10:15 a.m. -- after the conclusion of regular training hours.

The time slot gave rise to a further consideration, that Keeneland kindly addressed in advance so that everything could proceed without a hitch. Pletcher had indicated that he didn't want to work Carpe Diem on a track that had been chewed up in the wake of the morning's exercise. But Keeneland accommodated the Derby contender, and sent the tractors out to prepare the surface for him.

Pletcher expressed his gratitude for their going "out of their way" to help.

Taking to the track with Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez, Carpe Diem warmed up while escorted by the pony, then broke off in full flight. He reeled off an opening quarter in :24 and got his half-mile in :48. He continued on with high energy to clock five furlongs in 1:00 2/5 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13 4/5. Indeed, Carpe Diem didn't seem especially interested in pulling up.

Pletcher's broad smile, as he awaited Carpe Diem coming off the track, pretty much summed it up.

Back at the barn, Velazquez and his agent, retired Hall of Famer Angel Cordero Jr., were engaged in deep discussion. And no wonder -- they've got a Derby decision to make between Carpe Diem and Materiality.

Velazquez has been aboard for all of their career starts. As Pletcher pointed out, Materiality's unbeaten from three starts, and Carpe Diem is four-for-five, with his only loss being a second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1).

Carpe Diem exuded class -- and that indescribable "presence" of a top-caliber horse. Because it's a corollary of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle that you weren't really there unless you have the obligatory bath photo, I give you "Soapy" Diem.

As I stood there, soaking it in, I kept wondering. "Two weeks from now, will there be roses thrown across those handsome shoulders?"

All (obviously) amateur photos by Kellie Reilly.