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Check out our predictions and odds for the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park!
D W Lukas
R Santana Jr
TWO EAGLES RIVER
ANGEL OF EMPIRE
RED ROUTE ONE
J K Desormeaux
*Odds provided by author Brian Zipse.
Second and third in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes, Red Route One and Reincarnate renew their rivalry when they top a field of 11 Kentucky Derby hopefuls in Saturday’s $1.25 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.
Formerly trained by Bob Baffert and now trained by Tim Yakteen, Reincarnate could go favored after a very tough trip third in the Rebel. Before that, the son of Good Magic was a game-winner of the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita.
Red Route One came from the clouds to rally for second in the Rebel. It was his second straight runner-up finish at Oaklawn Park for trainer Steve Asmussen, having also closed for second in the Grade 3 Southwest.
Chief among their opposition in the 9-furlong Arkansas Derby will be the Bill Mott-trained Rocket Can.
The son of Into Mischief exits a pair of graded stakes at Gulfstream Park. Two starts back he won the Grade 3 Holy Bull, while last out he finished second to the champion Forte.
Angel of Empire also merits respect on Saturday as a winner of the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes last out at Fair Grounds. Trained by Brad Cox, he was second in the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn in the start before that.
As a Kentucky Derby trail race, the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby will offer qualifying points for the first Saturday in May on a scale of 100-40-30-20-10 to the first five finishers.
After a pair of solid wins in Southern California, in which he was right out there on the early pace, this son of Good Magic showed his class after breaking poorly in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes. He even got checked in the stretch, but still came running to finish a very good third.
With a better trip, he probably would have won last time. Expected to show much more speed this time, he will likely be tough to beat in his final prep for the Kentucky Derby. On every metric, he fits with this group.
Proven for class and toughness, the extra furlong of the Arkansas Derby should not be a problem for the Tim Yakteen-trained runner. In a wide-open affair, he is the top pick.
As many good races as this Steve Asmussen-trained son of Gun Runner has run, it’s hard to believe he still has never won a race on the dirt. In the two preps for this, he rallied nicely to be second in both the Grade 3 Southwest and the Rebel.
Will Saturday finally be the day he breaks through and wins one? He will get a little added distance, and the early pace should be solid, but I still wonder if he is a horse who prefers to rally into the picture rather than actually win.
Once again, the classy late runner seems like a better bet to fill out the exotics rather than actually win. Another solid effort, though, will be plenty to get him into the Kentucky Derby starting gate.
This gray son of Into Mischief has been very consistent since stretching out to two turns four races back. A pair of solid performances to close out his juvenile season have been more than validated with two good graded stakes runs in South Florida.
A winner of the Grade 3 Holy Bull, he was no match for Forte last time in the Fountain of Youth, but there is no shame in that and his second-place result was good.
Trained by Bill Mott, he has good tactical speed and should run another good race here as he ships into Oaklawn Park. I like him more to fill out the exotics, rather than win, but I respect him as a threat here.
The winner over a solid field in the Grade 2 Risen Star, this Brad Cox-trained son of Classic Empire will now move up another notch to see if he is a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender.
It’s hard to fault his form really, as the stretch runner has made steady progress throughout his five-race career. The only thing I do worry about is that he has not run as fast as a few of the top contenders listed above him.
I do believe he will need to take another step forward to win his second straight graded stakes race, but that is certainly possible. He will not be my top pick on Saturday, but he must be respected as a serious contender.
After a poor start cost him in one loaded allowance race, he came right back to convincingly win another strong one.
A consistent son of Cloud Computing, he will now get his shot at graded stakes racing. In the last one, he went right to the lead and dominated his competition throughout. The horse that finished second came back to run second in the recent Louisiana Derby.
There is no doubt that he has earned his shot here, but I do worry about a tougher early pace and another furlong to run in the Arkansas Derby. Still, he looms as a dangerous horse if he is not pushed too hard early in the race.
After three races, which included one win, this son of American Freedom seemed a long way from the Kentucky Derby trail. A new year, and a new barn, and he looks like a totally different horse.
Now running for Robertino Diodoro, he was claimed from a big win in January and followed that up with a nice win in a loaded allowance race. In fact, the horse he beat last time came back with a solid fourth in the Louisiana Derby.
Now rolling, and winning over the track, he looks like a serious threat in the Arkansas Derby. He also has a nice running style for this race, and could get first run at the leaders. In a race with several interesting horses, he is my top longshot.
Formerly trained by Bob Baffert and now trained by Steve Asmussen, this son of Justify graduated to graded stakes competition last time after showing some promising results in Southern California.
In the Risen Star, he pressed the pace and took the lead, only to fade down the stretch to finish in sixth behind Angel of Empire.
The experience should do him well, but with more speed in here and an even tougher field, it will once again be tough for him to be a big part of things when the real running begins.
This gray son of Classic Empire has been improving nicely for trainer Kenny McPeek. After rallying for third two starts back at Oaklawn Park, he put it all together last time.
Showing off an impressive late run, he came from well back to storm to the front and win going away. With very little early speed, he will attempt similar tactics on Saturday.
This will be a tough transition from maiden company, but the last performance was good enough to believe he can compete as he jumps to a Grade 1 company.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas is never afraid to give a long shot a chance in a big race, and it has worked for the legendary trainer many times. I’m not sure it will be the case, though, with this son of City of Light.
An impressive maiden winner at Saratoga eight starts ago, he has yet to find the winner’s circle since.
This will be his seventh try in stakes racing, and he has given no indication of being ready to win something big. Coming off a fifth-place finish in the Rebel, I like too many others better to consider him strongly.
Much like Interlock Empire, this son of Creative Cause continues to improve for trainer Ron Moquett. Since arriving at Oaklawn Park this past winter he has run three solid races, with each one better than the last.
He has also faced some decent horses along the way. His win last time may not look impressive on paper, but the way he rallied through traffic and finished with a flourish has me believing that he is a longshot to consider here.
It is a big jump up for him in class, but I see him as an up-and-coming horse who should love the added distance.
After finishing off the board in two races on dirt to begin his career, this son of Constitution moved to the turf. There he won once in four tries in Southern California and was claimed out of his last race.
With his only win coming in maiden claiming, this Grade 1 race will be a daunting challenge for him. In his only previous stakes try, he was well beaten.
He has some nice workouts on the dirt for his new barn but still looks hard to recommend in this field.
Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
Email: [email protected]
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