Arkansas Derby Winner…

CONCERT TOUR enters the Grade 1, $1 million dollar Arkansas Derby as a deserving favorite. Though it should be noted, he is not a monster on final times or speed figures, but that monster figure might appear on Saturday.

The Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park is Race 12 on a card of 13 with a scheduled Post Time of 7:40. Here then is a look at the field.

1. SUPER STOCK [ML 6-1] Trainer: Steven Asmussen. Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr. Off a 139-day layoff, he came back with a mild 4th-place finish in the Rebel Stakes (G2). He still lost by 6 1/2 lengths to CONCERT TOUR, but he did seem engaged in the stretch. His lack of ability to close the deal is a concern, as he owns only one Win in seven starts. Seven races is a long time to go without a second Win, especially horses of purported Grade 1 caliber. If the pace heats up better in this race compared with the Rebel, SUPER STOCK might hit the Trifecta. 

2. CADDO RIVER [ML 7-2] Trainer: Brad Cox. Jockey: Florent Geroux. Broke his Maiden last November at Churchill Downs by 9 1/2 lengths. Eight weeks later, he took the local Smarty Jones Stakes in his Derby trail debut by 10 1/4 lengths. In both instances, he set the pace on the way to Victory. But in the Rebel Stakes on this course, CADDO RIVER made his first real blunder with a fading 5th-place finish. This guy has talent and might develop into one of the top horses, but it is hard to trust him unless an uncontested lead looks like the obvious scenario on paper. 

3. HOZIER [ML 3-1] Trainer: Bob Baffert. Jockey: Martin Garcia. Baffert thought highly enough of this colt to give him a chance in the Rebel, and he made another step forward with a good run to finish 2nd, 4 1/4 lengths behind his stablemate CONCERT TOUR. In this race, the longer nine-furlong distance might help him, as could the projected battle between CADDO RIVER and CONCERT TOUR. Considering the Rebel results, it does not make sense for jockey Geroux to play conservative on CADDO RIVER again. CONCERT TOUR might be undefeated, but he does not possess overwhelming speed figures.  

4. GET HER NUMBER [ML 6-1] Trainer: Peter Miller. Jockey: Francisco Arrieta. He brings successful Graded Stakes experience as the Winner of the American Pharoah Stakes (G1) last fall. But his return in the Rebel Stakes this year left questions, as he ran a non-threatening 7th traveling mid-pack most of the race. Most horses improve in their 2nd start off the bench. Perhaps the connections need to slow down and work their way back up to a Grade 1 gradually. Even if he shows more early speed this time, CADDO RIVER and CONCERT TOUR will make it difficult. It’s tough not to think of a G1 Winner as a contender, but he really needs to up his game.  

5. CONCERT TOUR [ML 3-5] Trainer: Bob Baffert. Jockey: Joel Rosario. Under an aggressive ride he lead the Rebel Stakes from start to finish. He put away CADDO RIVER on the far turn and began to open up in the stretch, eventually finishing the race 4 1/4 lengths in front of his stablemate HOZIER. This time, CADDO RIVER is more likely to let loose in his last chance at the Kentucky Derby. CONCERT TOUR will either duel with CADDO RIVER or press him closely. The situation might soften up both runners and set up HOZIER or another runner. CONCERT TOUR could also endure a fast pace and dominate regardless.

6. LAST SAMURAI [ML 6-1] Trainer: Dallas Stewart. Jockey: Jon Court. Off his 5th-place finish in the Southwest Stakes (G3), he is hard to recommend. In fairness, he now makes his second start off the layoff. Last year, he lost two out of three starts. His lone Win came by 3/4 of a length at Churchill Downs in a weak Maiden race. On the positive side, a fast track (it rained on Friday) might help him move forward, and Stewart knows how to reach the Kentucky Derby with long shots.

Summary: Unfortunately the last big prep before the Derby doesn’t appear to offer the Value that the Daily Racing Blog is always on the lookout for.

#5 CONCERT TOUR checks most of the boxes we alluded to Wednesday, in regard to Winning the Arkansas Derby, and he certainly appears the top choice here. But last we checked, they still have to run the race.

The Play: For an upset look at both #2 CADDO RIVER and #3 HOZIER at Post Time, and key the horse with the highest odds on top of a Triple with the remainder of the field underneath.

Looking for a real bomb? Take a flyer on #4 GET HER NUMBER– a G1 Winner on his 2nd start after a layoff…stranger things have happened.

Best of luck no matter how you play it.

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