The highly-touted, Bob Baffert trained, NADAL will put his perfect record on the line Saturday in the second division of the Grade 1, $500,000 dollar Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. But he won’t offer any Value in this talent laden field of equally prominent 3-year-olds.
The second division of the Arkansas Derby is Race 13 on a card of 14 with a scheduled Post Time of 7:43. Here then is a full look at the field along with Morning Line odds.
1. FINNICK THE FIERCE [15-1] Trainer: Rey Hernandez. Jockey: Martin Garcia. He is a one-eyed closer who has shown himself capable of hitting the board against good horses. His runner-up finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) last fall to SILVER PROSPECTOR proves this. He has a very potent late kick, so Trifecta and Superfecta players would be wise to use him underneath.
2. SARATOGIAN [50-1] Trainer: Rodolphe Brisset. Jockey: Joe Talamo. SCRATCH
3. STORM THE COURT [6-1] Trainer: Peter Eurton. Jockey: Flavien Prat. From a speed figure standpoint, this 2-year-old champion is in the mix with a 112 and 113 this year. But in those starts, he finished 4th in the San Vicente Stakes (G2) Won by NADAL and 3rd in the San Felipe Stakes (G2), 5 ¾ lengths behind AUTHENTIC. For the glass half-full types, his San Felipe wasn’t terrible.
4. KING GUILLERMO [3-1] Trainer: Juan Carlos Avila. Jockey: Samy Camacho. Trusting a recent longs-shot Winner at a significantly lower price isn’t how the Daily Racing Blog usually rolls. But there are strong positive notes to point out about this Tampa Bay Derby (G2) Winner. For one, his only poor race came in the career debut at 5 ½ furlongs. After which he broke his Maiden in a one-mile turf race by 6 ¼ lengths, and then finished a strong 3rd in the Pulpit Stakes Won by SOLE VOLANTE. Without any good dirt form to study, bettors let him go at 49-1(!) off the layoff in the Tampa Bay Derby.
5. NADAL [5-2] Trainer: Bob Baffert. Jockey: Joel Rosario. He is undefeated with Wins in the San Vicente Stakes and Rebel Stakes. But at this point his running style is to set or contest the pace. He now stretches out to nine furlongs in a race containing another quality pacesetter in WELLS BAYOU. Can NADAL put him away at a longer distance while holding off the stalkers and closers? At even money (or less), other options offer better Value.
6. CODE RUNNER [50-1] Trainer: Steven Asmussen. Jockey: Stewart Elliott. It’s difficult to see why he is is entered in this Graded Stakes race. He Won his recent Allowance start at Sam Houston but needed an all-out drive to do so. Two starts ago in a six-furlong Allowance optional claimer, he was crushed, finishing 3rd by 12 ¼ lengths. Three back, he ran last at Sunland Park, beaten 24 ¼ lengths. No honor here today.
8. FAST ENOUGH [12-1] Trainer: Rafael Becerra. Jockey: Tyler Baze. SCRATCH
9. TAISHAN [15-1] Trainer: Richard Baltas. Jockey: David Cohen. On the far turn of the Oaklawn Stakes, this colt looked like a potential Winner after securing the lead from tired pace horses. But then he grudgingly faded in mid-stretch to 3rd, 3 ¾ lengths behind the eventual Winner MR BIG NEWS. He figures to sit in a good stalking position again here around fourth or fifth. In the Oaklawn, even though he was compromised by the fast pace, the nine-furlong distance remains a concern.
10. FARMINGTON ROAD [12-1] Trainer: Todd Pletcher. Jockey: Javier Castellano. After a fast pace set him up, he rallied for a runner-up finish in the Oaklawn Stakes. Trouble holding a straight line possibly cost him the Win in that one. In this spot, a lively tempo could develop, and he could make the same wide rally and see what happens in the stretch run. A pace collapse would certainly help his cause.
11. WELLS BAYOU [7-2] Trainer: Brad Cox. Jockey: Florent Geroux. As with NADAL, this one only knows how to set the pace. He used those tactics successfully in his last two starts to finish runner-up in the Southwest Stakes and Win the Louisiana Derby (G2) by 1 ½ lengths. He gets the outside position in a possible speed duel, which is more advantageous than contesting the pace on the inside. But he will burn energy in order to cross over.
Conclusion: #4 KING GUILLERMO and #5 NADAL will be taking all the money, and rightfully so. But with a shorter field, thanks to the scratches, no Value will be had with either of them on top.
So with maximum R.O.I. always our goal, the Daily Racing Blog will load up our giant-killing slingshot with #7 SILVER PROSPECTOR, and #10 FARMINGTON ROAD.
The Play: We will do a Trifecta Key using both the #7 and #10 on top of the 1-4-5-9-11. The ticket(s) will read; 7 with 1-4-5-9-10-11, and/or 10 with 1-4-5-7-9-11. We’ll also play an Exacta Box with #4-7-10-11, and Win bets on 7 and 10.
Best of luck no matter how you play it.