Photo: Oaklawn Park
contentious field for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) will most
likely be diminished by one with trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel deciding
instead to run Knock Em Flat in
the $100,000 Northern Spur Stakes on Saturday’s supporting card. The
official scratch still hadn’t been made as of 2 p.m. Friday.
Britt and Michael House’s Knock Em Flat, who graduated from the maiden
ranks here in his fifth attempt last out, was cross-entered in both
races restricted to 3-year-old.
The Northern Spur, which attracted 10 entrants, will be run at one
“The Arkansas Derby is a pretty tough field,” said Von Hemel.
defection leaves a very contentious and talented group of eight for the
1 1/8 miles Arkansas Derby, which is one of the final qualifying races
for the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Danza, Tapiture, Ride on Curlin, Thundergram, Commissioner, Conquest
Titan, Bayern and Strong Mandate will battle for the 170 qualifying
points at stake, with 100-40-20-10 going to the first through fourth
Thoroughbreds’ homebred Tapiture, a maternal grandson of 1991 Arkansas
Derby winner Olympio, who was also owned and bred by the Winchell
family, is the 9-5 morning
line favorite on the basis of his impressive win in the Southwest
Stakes (G3) and second to the Bob Baffert-trained Hoppertunity in the
Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn this season. Trainer Steve Asmussen, who
was tightening the final screws on the chestnut colt
Friday morning, has engaged Joel Rosario to ride him for the first
how important a race this is, and with Joel wanting the mount, this
provided us a unique opportunity, said Asmussen. “We’re trying to give
him the best chance to win
the Kentucky Derby. We’re dreaming the Derby dream, just like everyone
said that Tapiture’s energy level is higher than it was for the Rebel
and that he is extremely pleased with how well he has trained and
progressed since being part
of the roughly-run Rebel on Mar. 15.
bypassed the Arkansas Derby with Hoppertunity, who ran second the Santa
Anita Derby one week ago and is qualified for the Kentucky Derby, but
sends out Bayern from
his powerful Southern California-based stable. Kaleem Shah’s Bayern has
only raced twice, but broke his maiden and won a first level allowance
race by a combined margin of almost 19 lengths. Bayern is the 2-1 second
choice in the early line.
is a physically impressive horse with two brilliant races, and he
concerns me. If he gets loose on the lead…Bob comes prepared. He does
not run a short horse,” Asmussen
said, who added he wants to see his horse remain focused and patient in
The Arkansas Derby will be run as the 11th of 12 races and the supporting stakes are the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) and the $100,000 Instant Racing Stakes in
addition to the Northern Spur Stakes.
Oaklawn Handicap has attracted seven of the country’s top older horses
and Willis Horton and Three Chimneys Farm’s Will Take Charge is the
even-money morning line choice.
Razorback Stakes (G3) run-away winner Golden Lad and Revolutionary,
both trained by Todd Pletcher, will try to best the reigning 3yo
Champion Male, who will be saddled by D. Wayne Lukas. Carve, Moreno and
Prayer for Relief also take aim at Will Take Charge.
Arkansas Derby is the closing day of Oaklawn’s signature Racing Festival of the South and of the 2014 live racing season.