Arkansas Derby Preview

It’s the first Saturday of May which means one thing to warm-blooded gambling Americans – it’s Derby Day.

This year we celebrate Derby Day a bit differently, for instead of admiring the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs we look to Oaklawn Park for what is traditionally a Kentucky Derby warm-up, the Arkansas Derby.

Sure, we will celebrate Kentucky Derby Day on it’s postponed date of September 5th, but global pandemic be damned, the first Saturday in May will not go to waste. We have horses on the track and money to be made. This year’s Arkansas Derby is split into two divisions paying $500k to the winner of each division. That means we have two Grade I Stakes races to breakdown. Here is the tale of the tape:

Race 1:

The Horses:

1 – Charlatan (1-1)

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Jockey: Martin Garcia

Sire: Speightstown

2 – My Friends Beer (20-1)

Trainer: Jeremiah O’Dyer

Jockey: Declan Cannon

Sire: Stay Thirsty

3 – Mo Mosa (30-1)

Trainer: Michael Maker

Jockey: Kendrick Carmouche

Sire: Uncle Mo

4 – Gouveneur Morris (9-2)

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: John Velasquez

Sire: Constitution

5 – Jungle Runner (30-1)

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Jockey: Tyler Baze

Sire: Candy Ride

8 – Anneu d’Or (6-1)

Trainer: Blaine Wright

Jockey: Juan Hernandez

Sire: Medaglia d’Oro

9 – Winning Impression (15-1)

Trainer: Dallas Stewart

Jockey: Julian Leparoux

Sire: Paynter

10 – Crypto Cash (20-1)

Trainer: Kenneth McPeek

Jockey: Corey Lanerie

Sire: Majesticperfection

11 – Basin (8-1)

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.

Sire: Liam’s Map

Scratches: 6 – Shooters Shoot, 7 – Wrecking Crew

The Analysis:

Damn near every expert’s prediction for this race begins and ends with the first horse, Charlatan. Another Baffert horse that is primed to take the national stage. A win at the Arkansas Derby will cement Charlatan as the odds-on favorite for the Triple Crown races. At 1-1, it may not seem like the juice is worth the squeeze but if Charlatan wins today 1-1 may be the best odds you will see on this horse for the rest of his career.

Outside of the horse Baffert called “a smaller version of (2018 Triple Crown winner) Justify”, horses like Gouveneur Morris, Anneau d’Or, Winning Impression and Basin are who I expect to make a run for it.

Gouveneur Morris is a big gray horse who has two wins and a second in his last four races dating back to September. The only race of those in which he didn’t podium, he finished fourth at the G1 Florida Derby in late March. His first race as a 3-year-old came in February at Tampa Downs where the Govna’ came within .02 seconds from a track record, winning the race by 1 ¼ lengths. I would love to see this gray pull off the upset.

Anneau d’Or comes from Medaglia d’Oro who with Mr. Propsector is the only horse to sire seven American G1 winners in a single year. Anneau d’Or’s brother, Bolt d’Oro, might be a household name right now if he didn’t have to face the once-in-a-generation talent Justify in the 2018 Triple Crown races. The black mark against Anneau d’Or is his 9th place finish at his last race, the Grade II Risen Star at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. That race was the first race trainer Blaine Wright put blinkers on the horse. The blinkers come off for the Arkansas and I expect Anneau d’Or to return to his championship form.

Winning Impression and Basin are my higher value picks. I love the West Point Thoroughbreds stable that Winning Impression comes from and I think the Steve Asmussen/Ricardo Santana combination is not getting nearly enough love with Basin, who is already has a G1 victory under his belt coming at the Hopeful in September at Saratoga.

The Bets:

$10 Win 1

$2 WPS 4, 8, 11

$2 EX BOX 1, 8, 9, 11

Race 2:

The Horses:

1 – Finnick the Fierce (15-1)

Trainer: Rey Hernandez

Jockey: Martin Garcia

Sire: Dialed In

2 – Saratogian (50-1)

Trainer: Rodolphe Brisset

Jockey: Joe Talamo

Sire: Empire Maker

3 – Storm the Court (6-1)

Trainer: Peter Eurton

Jockey: Flavien Prat

Sire: Court Vision

4 – King Guillermo (3-1)

Trainer: Juan Carlos Avilla

Jockery: Samuel Camacho

Sire: Uncle Mo

5 – Nadal (5-2)

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Sire: Blame

6 – Code Runner (50-1)

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Jockey: Stewart Elliot

Sire: Honor Code

7 – Silver Prospector (10-1)

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.

Sire: Declaration of War

9 – Taishan (15-1)

Trainer: Richard Baltas

Jockey: David Cohen

Sire: Twirling Candy

10 – Farmington Road (12-1)

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Sire: Quality Road

11 – Wells Bayou (7-2)

Trainer: Brad Cox

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Sire: Lookin at Lucky

Scratches: 8 – Fast Enough

The Analysis:

If Charlatan takes care of business in the first, Baffert will have a strong chance for a sweep with morning favorite Nadal in the second. Nadal is three for three with victories in every race he’s run, most recently winning the G2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn on March 14th. He puts his undefeated record on the line in the longest race of his career today. My biggest concern for Nadal is if he gets pushed too hard at the start by someone like Wells Bayou and gives way down the stretch to a late-breaking contender like Silver Prospector.

King Guillermo comes off a win in his last race in the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby on March 7th. He has the pedigree coming from Uncle Mo. His speed rating is tops in this group and is the quasi-favorite alongside Nadal.

Silver Prospector won the G2 Kentucky Jockeys Club at Churchill Downs in November as well as the G3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn in February. The latter of which he beat Wells Bayou and Taishan who will be familiar faces in today’s race. On the flip side, Silver Prospector finished 6th in his most recent start (troubled start), which came at the aforementioned G2 Rebel Stakes that Nadal won. We’ll see which version of the horse we get today but I once again like the Asmussen/Santana combo.

Wells Bayou won the G2 Louisiana Derby on March 21st in impressive wire-to-wire fashion which is a longer race than the Arkansas. I expect him to press Nadal as a pacesetter and if he can get in position early on he has proven he has the endurance to take it the distance.

Farmington Road finished second in the April 11th Oaklawn Stakes. He beat out fellow racer Taishan in that race and the horse who beat them both, Mr. Big News, is not racing in this one. What is noteworthy about that race is that it came at the same track and was the same distance as today’s race. Farmington Road had a poor start then and closed fast but ran out of track to finish second. Javier Castellano and Todd Pletcher are two hall of famers that should give this horse every chance to finish in the money.

The Bets:

$2 WPS 5, 7, 10

$2 EX BOX 4, 5, 7, 10

$2 SHOW 2

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