03/05/2015 11:45AM

Tampa Derby: Stonestreet holding pair of aces

Barbara D. Livingston
Carpe Diem, trained by Todd Pletcher, has had seven workouts since mid-January in preparation for his 3-year-old debut in the Tampa Bay Derby.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Stonestreet Stables has been a huge player on the American racing scene in the last decade, although not so much in the Kentucky Derby. But if things unfold the right way Saturday in the annual marquee race at Tampa Bay Downs, the powerhouse stable could have two major prospects for the 2015 Derby.

Ocean Knight and Carpe Diem both will carry the Stonestreet silks when starting alongside each other in posts 2 and 3 among a field of eight 3-year-olds in the 35th running of the Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby. The 1 1/16-mile race carries 85 eligibility points toward the May 2 Kentucky Derby, with 50 to the winner and 20 to the runner-up.

Stonestreet owns Ocean Knight in full but owns Carpe Diem in a 50-50 partnership with WinStar Farm. Since Carpe Diem last raced under the white WinStar silks when getting up in the final jump to be second in the Nov. 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, jockey John Velazquez will be wearing the yellow and maroon silks of Stonestreet on an alternating system.

All of that is immaterial, of course, to how the race is run. By all accounts, both colts are training brilliantly on the Atlantic side of the Florida peninsula, from where they and most of the Tampa Bay Derby field will ship. Only two starters, Divining Rod and My Johnny Be Good, are locally based. The other six were to be vanned over from three training bases in the Miami and West Palm Beach areas.

:: DRF Live: Watch live handicapping analysis of Saturday’s biggest races, starting at 12:30 Eastern

Carpe Diem, trained by Todd Pletcher, has had this race on his radar for quite some time. A son of Giant’s Causeway, Carpe Diem has had seven workouts since mid-January at the Palm Beach Downs training center.

“We felt like he had a very good foundation as a 2-year-old and that we could afford to wait this long to bring him back, knowing he’ll have two major preps leading up to the Derby,” said WinStar president Elliott Walden. “We are extremely excited about him.”

Ocean Knight, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, has raced just twice, but he has an edge in recency and familiarity with the local course after winning here Jan. 31 in the Sam F. Davis Stakes. Irad Ortiz Jr. has a return call.

Both favorites figure to be closer to the early pace than they would have been if Souper Colossal had stayed in the race, but the speedy colt has been scratched. Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. revealed Thursday that Souper Colossal had come down with a temperature, and although it seemed a minor and temporary condition, “obviously it’s bad timing for us,” he said. “We’ll keep evaluating him and see where we are with him in the next four or five days.”

Souper Colossal, a winner in 4 of 5 career starts, had been cross-entered Saturday in the Swale Stakes at Gulfstream and figured as the third wagering choice in the Tampa Bay Derby.

The Tampa Bay Derby is carded as the 11th of 12 races and the last of four straight stakes. First post is 12:22 p.m. Eastern, with the Derby set for 5:23. The preceding stakes are the Hillsborough Stakes (race 10), Florida Oaks (race 9), and Challenger Stakes (race 8).

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays

The Saturday forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and a high temperature of 74.

Tampa Bay Derby, race 11


Carpe Diem (Last 3 Beyers: 93-91-84)

◗ Widely considered a serious Kentucky Derby hopeful since his flashy debut victory on closing day at Saratoga, this colt has done little wrong, winning the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in his second career start prior to his respectable runner-up finish in the Breeders’ Cup.

Ocean Knight (Last 2 Beyers: 93-93)

◗ Son of Curlin scarcely could have been more impressive in his Sam F. Davis win, as he was parked wide on both turns before showing true determination to prevail. He figures to be stalking from a prime position while likely to save more ground this time.

Danzig Moon (Last 3 Beyers: 89-83-69)

◗ A very sharp maiden winner four weeks ago at Gulfstream, he will break from the outside post alongside his uncoupled John Oxley/Mark Casse stablemate, Moonlight Bandit, who was supplemented to the race for a $7,500 fee. “We felt they both deserved a shot at this,” said Norman Casse, the trainer’s son and assistant.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 9 Danzig Moon. Trainer Mark Casse is 32-7-3-5 with a $4.06 ROI over the past five years going from a maiden win to a graded stakes race. Click for more details. Mike Hogan

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Divining Rod (Last 3 Beyers: 93-67-71)

◗ Bred and owned by Roy and Gretchen Jackson of Barbaro fame, this colt was a game second in the Sam F. Davis. He will race with bar shoes on both front hooves because of nagging quarter cracks.

Ami’s Flatter (Last 3 Beyers: 82-90-76)

◗ A so-so fourth as the fourth choice in the Sam F. Davis, this Ontario-bred colt gets the double whammy of first Lasix and blinkers on for this.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 4 Ami’s Flatter. Trainer Josie Carroll is 28-2-6-2 with a $0.59 ROI over the past five years with horses getting Lasix for the first time in a race following their debut. Click for more details. Mike Hogan

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 5 My Johnny Be Good. Trainer Eoin Harty is 21-4-4-4 with a $3.43 ROI over the past five years in dirt routes in the third start following a layoff. Click for more details. Mike Hogan