When Wynn Las Vegas oddsmaker John Avello installed Carpe Diem as the Kentucky Derby betting favorite a week ago there was some second guessing. American Pharoah made all of the speculation irrelevant by winning the Arkansas Derby in impressive fashion and taking over the spot as the Kentucky Derby favorite.
Carpe Diem had looked good winning the Tampa Bay Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes but it was hard to make an objective case that he’d been better than Bob Baffert’s Dortmund. Carpe Diem didn’t exactly dominate in the Blue Grass, winning with ease in what was a glorified workout. In the process, he posted a 95 Beyer which underscored the fact that he hadn’t posted a good speed figure in either race. Dortmund by comparison looked awesome in winning the three major prep races at Santa Anita this year, most recently the Santa Anita Derby. He’s turned in three straight 100+ Beyer Speed Figures in the process. While there is always the possibility that the Wynn needed to draw money away from Carpe Diem due to a liability elsewhere, based on credentials it looked certain that one of Bob Baffert’s colts would be the favorite.
American Pharoah has jumped into the role of Kentucky Derby betting favorite though there are some that aren’t convinced. The pat criticism you’ll hear about American Pharoah is that he hasn’t ‘faced adversity’. Not sure what these critics think of his Rebel Stakes win–his first race coming off a long layoff having last competed in September’s Frontrunner Stakes. It was his first race on an unfamiliar track outside of the state of California. The track was sloppy after torrential rains. American Pharoah got a bad start, dislodging his right front shoe in the process. This sure sounds like ‘adversity’ to me and despite everything working against him he won with ease.
At this point, the Carpe Diem v. Dortmund v. American Pharoah debate will have to wait until the first Saturday in May when it’ll be settled on the track at Churchill Downs. Depending on how the sporting media spins everything between then and now, Dortmund might go off as the post time favorite.