The Kentucky Derby is just three weeks away. Owners and trainers are still trying to figure out if their best three-year olds are going to make ‘The Run For The Roses’ on May 5th. So this week the Trail To The Grail leads us back to Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas for the annual running of The Arkansas Derby. Oaklawn Park last played host to The Rebel Stakes, an early Derby Prep Race back on Saint Patrick’s Day. Up for grabs Saturday is a million dollar purse as well as 100 points toward the Kentucky Derby for the winning horse. The race is a mile and 1/8 (9 furlongs) over dirt and has a field of nine horses entered.
The Arkansas Derby has given us six Kentucky Derby winners, all since 1983. The most recent being Triple Crown winner AMERICAN PHAROAH back in 2015. Trainer Todd Pletcher has four Arkansas Derby winners, and yes he has a horse entered this year, and yes I will try to beat him. Here are my top five:
# 5 SOLOMINI. Trained by Bob (The Baff) Baffert and ridden by Flavien Prat, he was second here to MAGNUM MOON back on March 17th. I think he has better luck this time out. He has had five career starts and never been out of the money. His speed figures in the last three races are the best of the field. Morning line of 2-1, may still offer better value than the Pletcher trained horse.
# 3 TENFOLD. My live long-shot. Morning line odds of 10-1. This is only his 3rd career race, and he is taking a big leap up in class, but SOLOMINI and MAGNUM MOON will no doubt get bet down drastically, so I’ll take my shot here. He likes the track, his speed figure improved in his second race, and he will need another spike in speed to contend here. But there is this; his connections, trainer Steve Assmussen, Jockey Victor Espinoza, and barn Winchell Thoroughbreds, are the ones who gave us AMERICAN PHAROAH! They all, obviously, recognize talent, and know what it takes to get a horse in the gate the first Saturday in May.
# 6 MAGNUM MOON. It’s Todd Pletcher’s world we just reside in it. His horses have won Derby Prep races the last four weeks in a row, so to leave this horse off the ticket on exotic wagers will certainly result in track-side confetti. Along with the 8/5 morning line odds the only other downside is that this guy has already earned enough points to go to Louisville. With just three weeks until The Derby I don’t believe jockey Luis Saez will be instructed by Pletcher to go hard and win at all costs, thereby depleting the horse for Kentucky.
# 9 COMBATANT. Another Steve Assmussen trained horse. Not to be overlooked at 6-1. Ran third here in The Rebel Stakes, proved he can run with the two favorites. Six career starts, and hasn’t been out of the money since his debut. Speed figures are admirable. Ricardo Santana Jr. is aboard.
# 8 QUIP. He won The Tampa Bay Derby back on March 10, so he knows how to win stakes races. His speed figures don’t quite rate with the rest here, but I can see him getting up for a minor share. Geroux Florent rides the Rodolphe Brisset trained horse. Morning line 9-2.
I’ll key the 3 over the 5-6-8-9 in a Trifecta, do a three horse Exacta box with 3-8-9 (putting the 5 and/or 6 in the Exacta will offer no ROI) , and make Win bets on the 3,8,9. Seek the value, and best of luck.