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Arkansas Derby Closes With 97 Noms

Arkansas Derby Closes With 97 Noms
Photo: Oaklawn Park

Nominations for Oaklawn’s signature event, the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1), closed with 97 horses being made eligible for the 1 1/8-mile race, including several horses that had not been part of the early-bird nomination process prior to the Feb. 20 Southwest Stakes (G3). Among the new names on the list were Sunland Derby (G3) runner-up Isn’t He Clever and Spiral Stakes (G3) third-place finisher Heavy Breathing, who are both expected to run.

 

Isn’t He Clever, by 2004 Arkansas Derby winner Smarty Jones, is expected to arrive next Thursday, April 12 from his New Mexico base as he attempts to pad his bankroll of $188,000 in graded stakes earnings. With several key Kentucky Derby preps still remaining, he currently sits 21st on the earnings list, the determining factor in making the 20-horse Derby field.

 

“He’s doing good, real good,” said trainer Henry Dominguez by phone. “We’re just hoping he runs a similar race to the Sunland Derby, but maybe wait a little longer this time. It’s his style (to be near the front) and we’re not going to try and change him.”

 

Isn’t He Clever has four wins and two seconds from seven starts while employing stalking tactics. His only “off-the-board” performance came in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita in February when he went straight to the lead and eventually faded to fifth. He was elevated for fourth in that race with the disqualification of Groovin’ Solo.

 

“We’ve kind of thrown that race out,” said Dominquez. “It was his first race of the year and he was fresh. That’s not his style. He’s done well since then and really matured.”

 

Dominguez said that jockey Robby Albarado, who won the 2007 Arkansas Derby with Curlin, will have the mount.

 

 

 

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