Kentucky Derby Profile: Can Carpe Diem Seize the First Saturday in May?

Profile Picture: James Scully

November 14th, 2014


Giant’s Causeway-Rebridled Dreams, by Unbridled’s Song


WinStar Farm LLC & Stonestreet Stables


Coffeepot Stable


Todd Pletcher

Best BRIS Speed rating

100 (Breeders’ Futurity)



Carpe Diem could not match strides with winner Texas Red in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, finishing 6 1/2 lengths behind, but his determination was on full display as he gutted out a runner-up placing, a nose better than third-placer Upstart.

After racing on or close to the lead in his first two outings, Carpe Diem found himself in an unfamiliar spot during the early stages of the Juvenile, next-to-last among 11 runners rounding the first turn. He continued to lag well off the pace down the backside and commenced an extremely wide rally leaving the far turn, passing six rivals in the stretch as he closed belatedly.

Favored at 9-5, Carpe Diem surely disappointed some backers, but the Juvenile remains a commendable effort to build upon. And Carpe Diem will enter 2015 as a top Kentucky Derby contender.

Since the Breeders’ Cup was inaugurated in 1984, only one horse (Street Sense) has captured both the Juvenile and Kentucky Derby. But four Derby winners (Spend a Buck, Alysheba, Sea Hero and Mine That Bird) were beaten in the Juvenile.

Carpe Diem opened his racing career in fine fashion, leading all the way in a September 1 maiden special weight event at Saratoga. Favored at 3-5, the chestnut established a clear early lead in the 5 ½-furlong test, repulsed a stiff challenge in upper stretch, and won going away under the wire by 2 ½ lengths.

His class showed when jumping straight to stakes company five weeks later in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. Carpe Diem closely stalked the pacesetter as the 2-1 favorite and advanced to challenge approaching the far turn. In the matter of a few strides, he blew the wheels off the competition entering the stretch, scoring by a widening 6 ¼-length margin and registering an excellent 100 BRIS Speed rating.


Carpe Diem is trained by Todd Pletcher, who will be North America’s leading conditioner by earnings for the fifth straight year in 2014. The 47-year-old native of Dallas has captured an unprecedented six Eclipse Awards for outstanding trainer and Pletcher established a new all-time earnings record earlier this year, passing his mentor, Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas.

While Pletcher has established all kinds of records during his highly-distinguished career, winning at a 23% rate from 6,097 starts since 2008, his Kentucky Derby mark has not lived up to the same standards. The Pletcher stable is typically loaded with a number of serious Derby contenders during the winter/early spring but is only one-for-40 in the Run for the Roses.

Bad luck has played a part, with Pletcher being forced to withdraw top contenders Eskendreya (2010), Uncle Mo (2011) and Constitution (2014) due to physical setbacks in recent years. His only Derby victory came via Super Saver in 2010. Except for a single entrant in 2011, Pletcher’s had multiple starters in every Derby since 2004.

Despite his past record, Pletcher remains eligible to turn things around from a Derby win perspective – he’s too talented a horseman and figures to have the stock for years to come. A horse like Carpe Diem definitely has him excited for the 2015 edition.

John Velazquez, who captured the 2011 Derby on Animal Kingdom, serves as Carpe Diem’s regular rider.

Pedigree/Sales History

A half-brother to U.S. Grade 1 winner J.B.’s Thunder and multiple English stakes winner Doncaster Rover, Carpe Diem’s pedigree is well-suited for the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby distance.

The well-bred youngster is by top sire Giant’s Causeway and hails from the stakes-winning mare Rebridled Dreams. His broodmare sire, Unbridled’s Song, is by 1990 Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Unbridled.

Carpe Diem’s second maternal dam is by the Danzig stallion Corridor Key and the third is by Preakness winner Aloma’s Ruler.

Bred in Kentucky, Carpe Diem initially sold for $550,000 as a yearling at the2013 Keeneland September sale. He turned out to be a successful pinhook for Northwest Stud, who resold him for $1.6 million at the 2014 OBS March two-year-old sale.


A powerfully-built chestnut colt, Carpe Diem is one of the most exciting Kentucky Derby prospects entering 2015. He easily could be the lowest-priced individual entrant in the first Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool on November 28-30.

Palm Meadows in South Florida serves as Pletcher’s winter base and Carpe Diem will likely reappear at Gulfstream Park next year.

Tactical speed represents a positive trait for Derby contenders and Carpe Diem has earned BRIS E2 Pace ratings of 101 and 102. The top class two-year-old could be any kind with further development – a horse like Carpe Diem has his connections and fans dreaming about Kentucky Derby glory.