Saturday’s Grade 1, Million Dollar Arkansas Derby marks the last chance for this field of eleven 3-year-olds to qualify for the 2019 Kentucky Derby as they try to get a piece of the 100-40-20-10 spread of points available to the Top 4 finishers. It appears that this year, it will require a record number of points to qualify for the May 4th Run For The Roses, and that from this group, only LONG RANGE TODDY is safely in with his 53.5 points.
Since 2000, the Winner of this Oaklawn Park mile and an eighth Stakes Race has gone on to win a Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby twice, the Preakness four times and three Belmont Stakes. Looking ahead, that is a very good run of recent success in which to refer.
The Arkansas Derby is Race 11 at Oaklawn Park with a scheduled Post Time of 7:43 p.m. Eastern Time. Here is a full field analysis, along with the official Morning Line:
IMPROBABLE [ML 8-5] Trainer: Bob Baffert. Jockey: Jose Ortiz. He took the first loss of his career in the Rebel (G2) when LONG RANGE TODDY ran him down with a great closing move. A Top 3 finish should be enough to get him into the KD field. Baffert has the services of Jose Ortiz for the first time, as he replaces Drayden Van Dyke. Blinkers will probably be added as he was seen training in them since the Rebel Stakes.
SIX SHOOTER [ML 30-1] Trainer: Paul Holthus. Jockey: David Cohen. This guy is long on experience, including three starts at Oaklawn Park with two fourth-place finishes on their Derby Trail. His three Wins have been at distances of less than a mile.
OMAHA BEACH [ML 2-1] Trainer: Richard Mandella. Jockey: Mike Smith. He likely needs to run in the Top 4 to wrap up a spot in the Kentucky Derby field. The weather reports call for rain and a sloppy track, which would be okay with this guy as he broke his Maiden on a wet Santa Anita surface by nine lengths.
TIKHVIN FLEW [ML 30-1] Trainer: Steve Asmussen. Jockey: Tyler Baze. He began his career with a Win at Aqueduct. Then was third behind KD qualifier HAIKAL in the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes. His last out he finished sixth in the Gotham Stakes (G3), and now he ships to Oaklawn Park for his first trip around two turns.
LAUGHING FOX [ML 20-1] Trainer: Steve Asmussen. Jockey: Ricardo Santana. He recorded a Maiden and an Allowance Win at Oaklawn Park in late winter. But last time out in the Rebel Stakes he was pinched back at the start and then did not show his usual late closing move.
GRAY ATTEMPT [ML 8-1] Trainer: William Fires. Jockey: Stewart Elliot. In the early going of the Derby Trail he Won the Smarty Jones Stakes here at Oaklawn Park going Wire to Wire. He then faded badly in the Southwest Stakes (G3) after a troubled trip into the first turn. This one has raced only on the lead in his six career starts and will provide plenty of pace to this Grade 1 race.
GALILEAN [ML 10-1] Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer. Jockey: Flavien Prat. This California-bred son of UNCLE MO made the jump from state-bred races to the Derby Trail, and his last time out got up for third in the Rebel Stakes behind LONG RANGE TODDY and IMPROBABLE. Blinkers come off for this one, with the hopes that he can rate a bit more in here.
COUNTRY HOUSE [ML 12-1] Trainer: Bill Mott. Jockey: Joel Rosario. He is right on the KD cut-line, so he needs to grab some of the available points to join his stablemate TACITUS on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs. He raced greenly down the stretch to get second in the Risen Star (G2), and then was put to a drive too early on in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and came up a bit empty down the stretch. Do note the Jockey change to Joel Rosario, who is a strong rider and does some of his best work with Closers.
ONE FLEW SOUTH [ML 50-1] Trainer: Doug O’Neill. Jockey: Calvin Borel. Never one to fear taking a shot in a big race, trainer Doug O’Neill sends this guy out in this Grade 1 race with only a Maiden Win at Turfway Park on the synthetic track. He followed that Victory with a dismal fifth place finish in the Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland Park in February.
JERSEY AGENDA [ML 30-1] Trainer: Steve Asmussen. Jockey: Ramon Vasquez. He looked promising in his first three starts, but then he stepped onto the Derby Trail and he could not keep up in the Southwest and Rebel Stakes. He appears to be up against it as a horse that likes to push the early pace. Know him early.
LONG RANGE TODDY [ML 5-1] Trainer: Steve Asmussen. Jockey: Jon Court. His hard-knocking style was rewarded when he beat IMPROBABLE in the Rebel Stakes. This guy emerged when he Won the Springboard Mile back in December at Remington Park. Since then he has showed up for every Oaklawn Park stop on the Derby Trail, and hit the board each time. Seemingly, he has thrived on more competition.
Summary: There appears to be sufficient speed in this field from JERSEY AGENDA, GRAY ATTEMPT, and TIKHVIN FLEW to set things up for the off the pace runners.
IMPROBABLE, OMAHA BEACH, and LONG RANGE TODDY should sit similar stalking trips and there could be quite a stretch duel between these three Favorites.
So how is the Daily Racing Blog going to Wager? The easy and not-profitable play would be an Exacta Box using #1-3-11. But there is no Value in that bet, and we at DRB always look to get a decent Return On Investment.
So we are going to take a chance on COUNTRY HOUSE. He needs to run well in order to get into the KD, and we feel a big effort is forthcoming. Jockey Joel Rosario takes over the reins, and he might be the perfect rider for COUNTRY HOUSE. His combination of strength and timing with Closers could provide trainer Bill Mott‘s runner with a perfect trip while getting the last late run down the stretch.
So we will do a Trifecta Key with the #8 on top with the #1-3-6-7-11 underneath. With Win bets on #6, 7, & 8. Best of luck no matter how you play it.