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2015 Tampa Bay Derby

John Velazquez and Carpe Diem return after winning the Tampa Bay Derby
Date: 03/07/2015

The highlight of the Tampa Bay Downs racing season is the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2) at 1 1/16 miles on the main track. It is the major local prep for the Triple Crown series and worth 50 "Kentucky Derby Championship Series" points to the winner. Conditions were excellent at the Oldsmar oval, with 10,115 on hand enjoying partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 70's. Carpe Diem was sent off as the even-money favorite in the field of 8, unraced since finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1). In to challenge him included 8-5 second choice Ocean Knight, winner of the Sam F. Davis (G3), and 7-1 third choice Danzig Moon, a maiden winner last out.
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Carpe Diem leads down the stretch.

Jockey Luis Garcia sent 9-1 Divining Rod to the front first time by and he set fractions of 23.10, 46.65, and 1:11.35 while pressed by 30-1 My Johnny Be Good, with Carpe Diem stalking them in third 2 lengths back. Entering the stretch, jockey John Velazquez angled Carpe Diem out for room and he powered past the pacesetters, finishing up 5 lengths ahead of late-running 13-1 Ami's Flatter in 1:43.60 over the fast main track, just 0.49 seconds off Street Sense's stakes record. It was another 2 1/2 lengths back to Divining Rod third.

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Pgm  Horse              Jockey         Win   Place  Show
 3   Carpe Diem         Velazquez     4.00    3.00  2.40
 4   Ami's Flatter      Contreras             9.00  6.80
 1   Divining Rod       Garcia                      5.60

Winning Time:  1:43.60

$2 Exacta 3-4                40.40
$2 Trifecta 3-4-1           147.20
$1 Superfecta 3-4-1-9       320.60
Results Chart

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Carpe Diem in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Todd Pletcher said, "We couldn't be more pleased. Johnny put him in a perfect position and he really kicked on at the top of the stretch. It was exactly what we were hoping for." Owner Kenny Troutt added, "I tell you what, he just took off down the lane. I was really shocked and so was Elliott (Walden). He kept yelling ‘Slow down, slow down,' because he didn't want to use him up."

Right: Carpe Diem heads into the paddock. Winning jockey John Velazquez said, "He was very fresh warming up and when they finally got him into the gate and I got on, he settled down. We broke very well and I took a position just where I wanted to be, right behind the leaders. He rated very well and I was able to wait with him until nearing the stretch. When I asked, he came away very nicely."

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Second place finisher Ami's Flatter heads out of the paddock. Jockey Luis Contreras said, "The blinkers made all the difference. This is still a green horse and he is still learning. He was away a little slow but he was relaxed. I asked for run down the backstretch and tried to follow (Carpe Diem). We finished very well and this race will do him a world of good."

Right: Third place finisher Divining Rod heads into the paddock. The 9-1 shot set the pace under Luis Garcia but tired late to get third beaten 7 1/2 lengths. The Arnaud Delacour trainee improved his record to 1 win, 1 second, and 2 thirds in 4 starts, earning $99,800 for owner-breeder Lael Stables.

horse racinghorse racing Immediately before the Tampa Bay Derby was the $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles on the turf. 115-1 St. Borealis was loose on the lead through frctions of 23.92, 48.57, and 1:12.90 before tiring badly to last. 60-1 Speed Seeker, who stalked her the whole way, inherited the lead through 1 mile in 1:37.37, but 7-5 favorite Stephanie's Kitten came through on the inside to outfinish 9-2 third choice Ball Dancing by 1 1/2 length in 1:49.05. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to Speed Seeker third.

Results Chart from DRF.

horse racingStephanie's Kitten in the post parade. Chad Brown, trainer of winner Stephanie's Kitten and runner-up Ball Dancing said, "It's hard to run them against each other; they are both Grade 1 level horses, obviously, but with limited options we wanted to kick their years off right around now. Historically, Stephanie's Kitten hasn't run that well off a layoff. She was off the board in her first two starts last year, and at that time I questioned whether maybe she doesn't want to do it anymore. Then in her third start, she ran terrific and from there she had a great year. With Ball Dancing, I ran her twice last year and she ran terrific. They have both been training together and been terrific in the mornings."

horse racinghorse racing A field of 11 three-year-old fillies went to post in the $200,000 Florida Oaks (G3) at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. 10-1 Lismore went to the lead immediately and set fractions of 24.12, 49.14, and 1:13.90 over the firm course while stalked by 51-1 Distorted Type and 7-2 second choice Quality Rocks. At the 3/16 pole Quality Rocks gained the lead and held off late-running 6-5 favorite Consumer Credit by 3/4 length in 1:43.39. It was another 1/2 length back to Lismore third.

Results Chart from DRF.

Winning trainer Bill Mott said, "She rated very well, she wasn't overly anxious and she finished good. Jose (Lezcano) did a great job. I didn't really have any anxious moments other than going into the second turn, I could see Jose didn't go around (Lismore and Distorted Type) – it looked like he was staying tucked in right behind, but he realizes how important it is to save ground. He stayed inside waiting for them to spread a little bit when they turned for home, and indeed they did,"

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Second place finisher and beaten favorite Consumer Credit in the paddock. Jockey Edgard Zayas said, "It was a big field but we really had no excuse. I had good position early and asked her for run in the far turn and she responded well, but the winner was gone."

horse racinghorse racing Kicking off the stakes action on Saturday was the $60,000 Challenger Stakes for older horses going 1 1/16 miles on the main track. 33-1 Decisive Moment led early through fractions of 24.18 and 48.19 before 9-5 favorite General A Rod took over through 3/4 in 1:12.33. Kept to task by John Velazquez, General A Rod powered away to a 6 1/4 length win in 1:42.89, just 6/100 off the track record. It was a neck back to 9-1 Neck 'n Neck third.

Results Chart from DRF.

Winning owner Jack Wolf said, "John said when he asked him on the backside, he really accelerated. Todd (Pletcher) will find a good next spot for him and we'll go from there, but this was a very good effort." Jockey John Velazquez added, "I had never ridden him before, but he is a professional. Getting to the far turn I sent him between horses, and when he had an open lane he just took off."

Photos courtesy of Amber Chalfin of

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