After flattening out in Aqueduct’s Gotham Stakes last time, Overanalyze was in need of a bounce-back performance in today’s Arkansas Derby to avoid being stuck on the couch on the first Saturday in May. With both the race favorite, War Academy, and the second choice, Oxbow, throwing in disappointing performances, Overanalyze was more than happy to take advantage in one of racing’s premier Kentucky Derby preps. Storming down the stretch in front of a large Oaklawn Park crowd, the son of Dixie Union pulled away from the rest to win the $1 million race with authority.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Overanalyze was content to sit in the middle pack, and on the outside, as Divine Ambition and Falling Sky carved out moderate early fractions. Always looking comfortable, rider Rafael Bejarano kept his charge on the outside and began moving up on the far turn. It looked like it might be anybody’s race as the field careened off the far turn, but Overanalyze was just beginning to get going. By the time the Arkansas Derby field hit the eighth pole, he had taken the lead, and from there it was a one horse race, going on to win by 4 ¼ lengths. Frac Daddy won the race for second, with Carve, Falling Sky and Oxbow not far behind him.
An objection after the race by Victor Lebron aboard Frac Daddy seemed optimistic at best, and was quickly dismissed by the stewards.
The happy winning jockey had this to say about Overanalyze after the race, “My horse broke really good. I placed him right behind the early speed because I didn't want to rush him. At the half-mile pole, He started to chase the horses on the lead and he kicked clear," said Bejarano. "I had a beautiful trip. Once we got to the stretch, I felt like I had a lot of horse left and saved something for the next race."
While the winning margin may have looked good, Overanalyze’s final time was nothing to write home about. 1:51.94 is the slowest Arkansas Derby in 35 years, and by way of comparison, the good four-year-old, Cyber Secret ran more than two seconds faster while winning the Oaklawn Handicap in 1:49.67 a few races earlier on the card.
For his never shy owner, Mike Repole, it will now be on to Louisville, where he’ll also have his unbeaten filly, Unlimited Budget in the Kentucky Oaks, which should ensure his large entourage has a strong rooting interest on both big days at Churchill Downs.
And for the ubiquitous Pletcher, Overanalyze joins an already strong roster that includes Verrazano, Revolutionary, as well as Palace Malice, who just missed winning the Blue Grass Stakes earlier in the afternoon to Java’s War.
As for the two race favorites … War Academy was pulled up on the backstretch by Hall of Fame rider, Mike Smith. The horse did, however, walk off the track on his own after the race. His trainer, Bob Baffert, tweeted after the race, “Mike Smith says War Academy fine after he bobbled down the backside.” Oxbow, unable to get good position from his far outside post, was shuffled back early and appeared not to appreciate the dirt being kicked up in his face. He did shift to the outside again for the stretch run and finished with good energy, but could do no better than fifth place.