3-year-olds are set for Saturday’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) led
by the Bob Baffert-trained duo of Bodemeister and Secret Circle as the
top two betting choices, with the latter
looking to sweep Oaklawn’s major prep races after wins earlier this
season in the $250,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) and $500,000 Rebel Stakes
marquee race will anchor a 12-race card, that also features the
$250,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) and $400,000 Oaklawn Handicap
(G2). First post is 12 noon and the Derby will
be at 5:45 p.m. (CDT). It is part on a one-hour national broadcast from
5 – 6 p.m. (CDT) on CNBC.
Stable’s Bodemeister, named in honor of the trainer’s son Bode, enters
the Arkansas Derby off a narrow loss to the highly regarded Creative
Cause in the San Felipe Stakes (G2) at
Santa Anita March 10. That strong effort came just one race after
breaking his maiden by 9 ¼ lengths in his second career start. He will
have to call on all his talents after drawing post 11 under Hall of Fame
rider Mike Smith, who became the newest member
of the 5,000-win club last weekend.
Circle, owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, drew post 5
and will have regular rider Rafael Bejarano back on board. He will vie
for favoritism from his stablemate
after his earlier wins this season. In the Rebel, he showed a new
dimension when he sat off the early pace and held off the late charge by
Optimizer to win his first race over one mile.
Circle has been getting the distance so far,” said Baffert. “He hasn’t
shown me he can’t get it – they can all get it until they show you they
be a good race with some nice horses in there,” he continued. “I think
Bodemiester will be tough. These are two really
good horses and even though I don’t like to get ahead of myself, it’s
always special just to have a horse that has a chance in the Kentucky
Derby, so hopefully we wind up with one of those on Saturday.”
from the east coast were Stat and Raconteur from the barn of Todd
Pletcher and Cozzetti from the barn of Dale Romans. Pletcher won the
2000 and 2001 Arkansas Derby with Graeme
Hall and Balto Star, respectively and won his first Kentucky Derby with
2010 runner-up Super Saver.
the local contingent is Bluegrass Hall’s Optimizer, out to continue his
momentum shown at the end of the Rebel. He would give jockey Jon Court
his third straight Arkansas Derby
victory following Line of David and Archarcharch.
other colts who could get overlooked in the wagering, but have
legitimate credentials are Jake Mo and Najjaar. Jake Mo will be the only
colt to compete in all four of Oaklawn’s 3-year-old
races having already finished fourth in the Smarty Jones, second in the
first division of the Southwest won by Secret Circle’s stablemate
Castaway and fourth in the Rebel. Najjaar won two straight allowance
races, including one over older horses prior to finishing
sixth in the Rebel after a poor break. He drew post 3 and will have the
services of jockey Calvin Borel.
just let him run his race,” said trainer Danny Peitz of Najjaar. In
2006, he trained Steppenwolfer to a runner-up finish in Arkansas and a
third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
“Calvin knows the horse, he's ridden him enough times. We just want an
honest pace, that's all we're looking for. We have no wiggle room here.
With Steppenwolfer, I thought if we were second, we'd make the Kentucky
Derby. But we need to win, so we've gotta
go out and get it done. It's always tough - a million dollars, a grade
one race, they don't give those kind away - but I'm expecting a big
race. The farther, the better. I think the mile and an eighth is just
what we've been waiting for."
complete field for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1), in post-position
order, with riders and morning line odds: Cozzetti, Jose Lezcano, 15-1;
Stat, John Velazquez, 10-1; Najjaar,
Calvin Borel, 15-1; Jake Mo, Cliff Berry, 30-1; Secret Circle, Rafael
Bejaraon, 5-2, Isn’t He Clever, Robby Albarado, 6-1; Optimizer, Jon
Court, 30-1; Atigun, Terry Thompson, 30-1; Sabercat, Corey Nakatani,
15-1; Raconteur, Chris DeCarlo, 15-1, and Bodemeister,
Mike Smith, 9-5.