Carpe Diem an even-money Blue Grass favorite

Saturday, April 4

Carpe Diem (Giant's Causeway) displayed an affinity for Keeneland's newly-installed dirt track when romping to a 6 1/4-length victory in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) last October and the Todd Pletcher-trained colt will look to confirm his status as a leading Kentucky Derby contender when he returns to the Lexington, Kentucky oval in Saturday's $1 million Blue Grass (G1).

He tops an eight-horse field and has been installed as the even-money favorite by oddsmaker Mike Battaglia. The 1 1/8-mile event serves as one of the final major preps in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, awarding points on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top four finishers.

After sustaining his lone career setback with a Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) runner-up, Carpe Diem returned this season in stellar form, romping to a five-length decision as the even-money choice in the March 7 Tampa Bay Derby (G2). John Velazquez rides the chestnut, who figures to be forwardly-placed after breaking from post 5.

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Ocho Ocho Ocho (Street Sense) will invade from California after sustaining his first loss, a troubled eighth in the March 7 San Felipe (G2) in which he got nicked up after being knocked around in the early stages. The Jim Cassidy trainee captured all three starts at two, including a gutsy nose tally in his lone previous foray outside of California, the $1 million Delta Jackpot (G1) in November, and the speedy colt figures to be much more involved from the start than he was last time. He's listed as the 6-1 co-second choice with new jockey Santiago Gonzalez.

Classy Class (Discreetly Mine), third in the Gotham (G3) and Withers (G3) in his last two starts, is also 6-1. The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt will be making his first start outside of New York and Junior Alvarado will be along for the ride.

Danzig Moon (Malibu Moon), Frammento (Midshipman) and Gorgeous Bird (Unbridled's Song) come next on the morning line at 8-1.

Danzig Moon opened 2015 with a smart 4 3/4-length maiden score at Gulfstream Park and followed with a fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby. The promising Mark Casse pupil is eligible to improve upon his first start against winners and will retain the services of top Keeneland jockey Julien Leparoux.

Frammento was no factor as well in his stakes debut, the January 24 Holy Bull (G2), but will attempt to keep moving forward after offering an encouraging late run for third in the February 21 Fountain of Youth (G2). Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, a two-time Kentucky Derby winner, is excited to get his charge away from Gulfstream Park and Frammento recorded his lone victory over maiden special weight rivals at Keeneland last October. Three-time Kentucky Derby winner Gary Stevens picks up the mount on the confirmed closer.

Gorgeous Bird will make his second stakes attempt for Ian Wilkes following a fifth in the Fountain of Youth. Bet down to 6-1, the gray colt did not appear to like the tiring track last time after opening his sophomore campaign with an excellent seven-length score over allowance/optional claiming foes. Brian Hernandez Jr., who was up for Gorgeous Bird's maiden win at Churchill Downs last fall, will retake the reins.

Completing the Blue Grass line-up are Unrivaled (Super Saver), who exits a five-length allowance romp at Parx Racing in his seasonal bow; and John Battaglia Memorial runner-up Pepper Roani (Broken Vow). Both are 12-1 on the morning line.

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