Give Carpe Diem Another Chance in Belmont Stakes
Give Carpe Diem Another Chance in Belmont Stakes: Without an excuse, Carpe Diem finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby (GI) a few weeks ago and disappointed his backers. Before that race, there was a picture being passed around online horse forums of Carpe Diem hiding underground because he saw American Pharoah’s latest workout. His Derby finish supported the picture’s main point of American Pharoah as the superior horse, at least for 10 furlongs. Yet, even assuming a clean race in the 12 furlong Belmont Stakes (GI) on June 6, if Carpe Diem continues to train well and enters, there is hope this colt can turn the corner and spoil American Pharoah’s Triple Crown bid.
To come to this conclusion requires some creativity. First, Todd Pletcher is a great trainer that excels in the Belmont more than the other two Triple Crown legs. His good fortunes started in 2007 when Rags to Riches won over future Horse of the Year Curlin. Since then, more often than not one of his horses fires. For example, in 2009, his colt Dunkirk went to the lead and stuck around until the end when he finished second to Summer Bird. In 2011, Stay Thirsty ran as part of the leading group and stuck around as well, finishing second to Ruler On Ice. Pletcher won another Belmont in 2013 with Palace Malice, and finished second again last year with Commissioner. This trainer may not always win the race, but he is normally in the mix.
Interestingly enough, Stay Thirsty finished 12th in the Kentucky Derby and seventh in the Florida Derby (GI) before his improved Belmont effort. Palace Malice finished 12th in the Derby. They help prove that recent form is not the only useful indicator for which horses run well in the Belmont. Many horses not part of Pletcher’s barn supported this theory over the years too. When Birdstone upset Smarty Jones’ 2004 Triple Crown bid, he previously ran eighth in the Derby.
One explanation for Pletcher’s ability to succeed in the Belmont is the five-week break, which means his horses run with rest. This advantage for Carpe Diem is specifically against American Pharoah and not the other horses coming off the same break. Carpe Diem will receive the advantage of pointing towards the Belmont at a normal pace, while American Pharoah was “obligated” to compete in the Preakness just two weeks after winning the Derby and now must come back and fill one more obligation in three weeks for a 12 furlong race.
Carpe Diem’s form before the Derby was solid, although not spectacular. He won the Blue Grass (GI) at Keeneland and Tampa Bay Derby (GII). The speed figure gurus were not impressed though with the “average” winning numbers because for a top-level three-year-old, his figures are considered a step below. Luckily, speed figures are not what makes a Belmont Stakes champion.
Think about the fact that none of the field ran 12 furlongs before. Going from 10 furlongs as the furthest race, to 12, is quite the leap! Most handicappers are skeptical of six furlong winners trying one mile. Why should the jump in distance for American Pharoah be viewed with any less skepticism here, especially since the horse will end up wildly popular with bettors no matter how low his odds are? The past speed figures earned are weighted less in value because of the mystery surrounding the marathon distance. This helps view Carpe Diem’s low-ish numbers in a positive light.
Carpe Diem’s pedigree deserves some encouraging points too for route influences. His sire is Giant’s Causeway, a terrific route sire despite the Storm Cat influence. Before the Derby, many handicappers believed in the “Storm Cat jinx,” and discounted any horse with Storm Cat in his blood, not only for the Derby, but for going 10 furlongs or more in general. Then, Storm Cat horses ran 1-2-3 in the Derby and drove that curse into the ground (not that there was sound reasoning behind the logic anyway). Giant’s Causeway finished second by a neck in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) to Tiznow, one of the greatest Breeders’ Cup champions of all time. His progeny should be fine for the marathon distance.
Furthermore, Carpe Diem’s dam Rebridled Dreams won three route races in her career out of four wins overall. She produced six other foals and five of them made the races. Two of those siblings raced in Europe and their form is difficult to analyze without the charts present. One sibling named J.B.’s Thunder broke his maiden in a turf route at Saratoga, and then won the synthetic Breeders’ Futurity (GI) in his next start, also at a route distance.
Give Carpe Diem another chance in the Belmont, if he shows up. The worst that can happen is another loss and failure to hit the board. Losing with a longshot beats risking money on a heavy rock-star status favorite. Even if American Pharoah wins and a longshot finishes second, the payoff will remain severely underlaid because everyone has the same clever idea of using a bomb underneath American Pharoah. By using Carpe Diem on top somehow, whether through a box with other longshots or as part of the pick four, the chance at a huge score is there.