The $1.25 million, Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park offers Kentucky Derby contenders the opportunity to compete for the top-level points (100-40-20-10) at a distance of a 1 1/8 miles.
With the Run for the Roses less than six weeks away, this will be the last chance for the horses in this field to gather Derby qualifying points.
There will be an urgency about Winning points in this race since only four of the nine in the field have earned points.
This feature contest is slated as race 12 on a card of 13, with a scheduled Post Time of 7:35. Here then, is a look at the field.
1. KAVOD [ML 15-1] Trainer: Chris Hartman. Jockey: Mitchell Murrill. He is the most experienced 3-year-old in this field with 12 starts, nine of which came last year. In 2022. KAVOD has made all three starts on the Kentucky Derby trail at Oaklawn Park and ran 4th each time. In the Southwest (G3) and the Rebel (G2), he set the pace for six furlongs. The best to possibly expect is another underneath finish. Blinkers come off.
2. CHASING TIME [ML 12-1] Trainer: Steve Asmussen. Jockey: Jose Lezcano. He made the jump from an Allowance Victory at Oaklawn to the Rebel Stakes, where he ran in the second group of horses and did not advance beyond that position to finish 5th. Owned by the My Racehorse partnerships, as with most horses that have so many micro-share owners, he is usually heavily over-bet. Don’t be fooled by all the action on him.
3. BARBER ROAD [ML 8-1] Trainer: John Ortiz. Jockey: Reylu Gutierrez. This one-time Maiden claimer has been a consistent performer throughout his career, which includes top-three finishes in all three of the Oaklawn Derby trail races. He has gathered 18 points thus far and was 3rd, just a half-length from the top spot, in the Rebel with a late rally.
4. DOPPELGANGER [ML 3-1] Trainer: Tim Yakteen. Jockey: John Velazquez. He was recently was transferred from the barn of Bob Baffert to that of his former assistant trainer Yakteen, so that the horse can have a chance to earn Derby qualifying points. DOPPELGANGER began his career in December with a Maiden Win at Los Alamitos and then went to the San Vicente (G2) where he ran 4th. Last out, he was 2nd in the San Felipe (G2), behind FOREBIDDEN KINGDOM but well ahead of the rest of the field. That performance gives him a chance in this field. He will race without blinkers for the first time.
5. UN OJO [ML 6-1] Trainer: Ricky Courville. Jockey: Ramon Vasquez. This New York-bred shocked the crowd at Oaklawn for the Rebel when got a rail trip and railed to Win at odds of 75-1! That was his second Victory in six starts. UN OJO was 2nd in a strong edition of the Withers (G3) before the big upset. Typically, those big long shots have trouble coming back to Win another race on the Derby trail, although he certainly has appreciated the longer distances.
6. SECRET OATH [ML 5-2] Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas. Jockey: Luis Contreras. The Hall of Fame trainer has the filly in fabulous form with three open-length Victories in a row, each time with a dazzling turn of foot down the stretch. She has enough points to qualify for the Kentucky Oaks already, so Lukas will take on the boys to try to pick up enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby. Win or lose in the Arkansas Derby, she will have the same amount of time to prepare for either of those races on the first weekend in May.
7. BEN DIESEL [ML 15-1] Trainer: Dallas Stewart. Jockey: Jon Court. After a debut Win as a 2-year-old at Churchill Downs, this guy has raced four times on the Derby trail, with his best result being a 3rd in the Southwest. His most recent 8th in the Rebel was not encouraging, yet Stewart brings him back for another try. It is a big purse, so a board-hitting finish still pays well.
8. CYBERKNIFE [ML 8-1] Trainer: Brad Cox. Jockey: Florent Geroux. The Eclipse Award-Winning trainer has been out of the Kentucky Derby spotlight this year with horses such as CYBERKNIFE. He ran a disappointing 6th in the Lecomte (G3) in January but came back with a visually impressive three-length Allowance Win at Fair Grounds in February.
9. WE THE PEOPLE [ML 7-2] Trainer: Rodolphe Brisset. Jockey: Flavien Prat. He is unbeaten after two starts at Oaklawn, with his Maiden Winner in February going a mile and then an Allowance by five lengths as the odds-on favorite. There is plenty to like from those initial races, where he pressed the pace. Based on those races and his current form, he has certainly earned a shot to see if he can qualify for the first Saturday in May.
SUMMARY: D. Wayne Lukas has found an excellent spot for his filly #6 SECRET OATH to take on the boys, with only three other horses who have Won a Stakes race. #5 UN OJO leads that list with his Victory in the Rebel.
SECRET OATH is clearly the horse to beat in the Arkansas Derby. BUT, with the run-of-the-mill performances of most horses on the Derby trail, it begs the Daily Racing Blog to look elsewhere, and find some Value.
The thinking here is that #9 WE THE PEOPLE and #3 BARBER ROAD will prove to be the biggest challenge to the filly.
BARBER ROAD made up ground in the Southwest (G3) and Rebel (G2). He missed the Victory only by a half-length in the Rebel, and his speed ratings indicate a forward move. His pedigree and running style suggest nine furlongs won’t be a problem.
WE THE PEOPLE is is undefeated in two career starts, and is bred to run all day. His speed figures improved with each race. He Won both races (at Oaklawn) with ease. With his early running style, he’ll likely try to break quickly, get closer to the rail, and try to run the field off its hooves.
THE PLAY: We’ll use BARBER ROAD, SECRET OATH, and WE THE PEOPLE in our multi-race wagers, as well as key both BARBER ROAD & WE THE PEOPLE on top of all our exotic bets.
Best of luck no matter how you play it.