Arkansas Derby First Division Picks

22 horses were entered for the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby.  After which  Oaklawn Park officials decided to split the race into two divisions, both offering a $500,000 dollar purse.

Churchill Downs opted to let both divisions of the Arkansas Derby race for the original 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.

The generosity of point dispersion takes into consideration that the Wood Memorial, Blue Grass Stakes and, Santa Anita Derby were all postponed.  The last points-qualifying prep race was the Florida Derby back on March 28th.

So without further adieu here is a full-field analysis of the first division of the Arkansas Derby, with Morning Line odds.

1. CHARLATAN  [ML 1-1]  Trainer: Bob Baffert.  Jockey: Martin GarciaThe Baff has used three identical six-furlong workouts to prepare for this and there is every reason to believe that this guy is the real deal.  He drew the rail with very little serious speed in this field.  He should have no problem controlling the race from the rail as a heavy favorite.                       

2. MY FRIENDS BEER  [ML 20-1]  Trainer: Jeremiah O’Dwyer.  Jockey: Declan Cannon.  This Laurel Park-based runner shows only a Maiden Victory which came in his fifth career start.  He was 3rd in an Allowance here three weeks ago.             

3. MO MOSA  [ML 30-1]  Trainer: Michael Maker.  Jockey: Kendrick Carmouche.  He has only a Maiden Victory to his credit, and that came on the synthetic surface at Turfway Park.  That Win came back in February, after which he was sent to the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) where he ran last at 138-1.  Most recently, he was 3rd here in an Allowance race.                       

  [ML 9-2]  Trainer: Todd Pletcher.  Jockey: John Velazquez.  He has shown promise since his nine-length debut score at Saratoga and then a 2nd in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) as a 2-year-old.  He Won his first start of 2020 in a Tampa Bay Allowance and then ran 4th in the Florida Derby (G1) against a strong field.  His two Victories came while racing from a stalking position.

5. JUNGLE RUNNER  [ML 30-1]  Steve Asmussen.  Jockey Tyler Baze.  He was not among the original 99 nominees for the Arkansas Derby and thus was supplemented to the field.  Since he won the Clever Trevor Stakes at Remington Park as a 2-year-old, none of his three starts this year were awful.  He has not raced since the Mine That Bird Derby back in February.     

6. SHOOTERS SHOOT  [ML 8-1]  Trainer: Peter Eurton.  Jockey: Joe Talamo.                                                                  SCRATCH

7. WRECKING CREW  [ML 20-1]  Trainer: Peter Miller.  Jockey: Flavien Prat.  He built a nice bankroll as a 2-year-old when he hit the board in three Graded Stakes, including 3rd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.  His return in the San Felipe (G2) in March was an especially tough spot for his 2020 debut.  This trainer has sprung many an upset over the years.               

[ML 6-1]  Trainer: Blaine Wright.  Jockey: Juan Hernandez.  He was heavily bet in three out of four starts including his debut Victory, a narrow loss in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) and a poor performance in his only start of this year- the Risen Star (G2) when blinkers were added for the first time.  The blinkers are now back off , as connections look for another top effort following a more than two-month layoff.  He was 2nd by a head in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

9. WINNING IMPRESSION  [ML 15-1]  Dallas Stewart.  Jockey: Julien Leparoux.  His two best races came on sloppy tracks when he broke his Maiden at Fair Grounds as a 2-year-old and then finished 1st here in an Allowance last month only to be disqualified to 5th after drifting in the stretch.  Connections hope for rain.   

10. CRYPTO CASH  [ML 20-1]  Trainer: Ken McPeek.  Jockey: Corey Lanerie.  Switches back to the dirt, which is where this colt broke his Maiden last summer going a mile at Ellis Park.  Since then, he has Won a turf Allowance at Churchill with a late rally and then was 4th in his 2020 debut in a Turfway Stakes race in March.  A Grade 1 is a tough spot to step up.         

11. BASIN  [ML 8-1]  Trainer: Steve Asmussen.  Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.  He has caught sloppy tracks in both of his 2020 starts at Oaklawn Park, resulting in 3rd and 4th place finishes.  He will have to tackle going nine furlongs for the second straight race.  His two Wins came when he was close to the early pace.  That didn’t happen in both his starts at age 3. Will he contest the pace breaking from the far outside?  Wanna pay to find out?

Summary:  When a Stakes is split into two divisions, there is always the risk that the quality of the races will not be balanced.  That is certainly the case here with the first flight much less accomplished.

None of the 10 starters in this race have Won a Stakes as a 3-year-old, and only two contenders recorded a black type Win as a juvenile.  Five of them have only a Maiden Victory to their credits.

If CHARLATAN is close to as good as thought, he will be tough to beat.  He should have no trouble controlling the race with only a couple of opponents showing speed in the past, and those two are several posts outside of him.

GOUVERNEUR MORRIS should be able to stay close enough to make his stalking move.

WRECKING CREW had a strong 2-year-old campaign and trainer Peter Miller frequently has horses run well at generous odds.

ANNEAU D’ OR also could bounce back after a failed try with blinkers on last time as that equipment comes off now.

The Play:  The Daily Racing Blog will use the four horses mentioned above (#1-4-7-8) in an Exacta and Trifecta Box, with the hope that the even money favorite, #1 does not come in on top.

On Friday DRB will take a  look at the second (and more competitive) division of the Arkansas Derby, and hopefully we can find some Value.  So be sure to stop back.

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