This Saturday is a mad rush for the last 100 Kentucky Derby points, for the winners of the Arkansas Derby and the Bluegrass Stakes. The Arkansas Derby(Grade I, Purse $1M, 1 1/8) has elevated its position in the Kentucky Derby preps in the last decade, with horses like Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Curlin, and Super Saver putting up nice performances on that first Saturday in May. Let's look at this year's race:
1) Carve(20-1, Tr. Steve Asmussen; Jy. Ricardo Santana, Jr.) Local charge has had his brief career in three outings @ Oaklawn. His last race was his first against competition of this caliber, and was nondescript. If this one is to step up, there doesn't seem to be much of an indication that he's sitting on a big one. Pass.
2) War Academy(2-1, Tr. Bob Baffert; Jy. Mike Smith) This colt also only has three starts, but does have Bob Baffert and Mike Smith. So, remnants of Bodemeister has this one listed as the favorite. He had a closing burst of speed in his last, an open claimer, in a five-horse field. Shipping out of California. Could be mixing it up on the front end, but can't be that supportive for someone who's a favorite that's lightly-raced, and shipping for the first time.
3) Divine Ambition(20-1, Tr. Darrin Miller; Jy. Brian Hernandez, Jr.) Tries his fourth different track in succession. He comes from the Rushaway Stakes @ Turfway Park, where he was runner-up. Cross-entered in the Bluegrass Stakes @ Keeneland, so there's some confusion as to what direction he's headed in. Either way, can't seem to latch onto anything.
4) Falling Sky(10-1, Tr. John Terranova II; Jy. Martin Garcia) Won the Stephen F Davis Stakes and last race, the Tampa Bay Derby, led for most of race, before faltering to possible Derby favorite Verrazano. Has decent record of 5-3-0-1, and picks up west coast jock Martin Garcia. Interesting move. Also, has bullet work.
5) Den's Legacy(6-1, Tr. Bob Baffert; Jy. Robby Albarado) This race will mark his twelfth career race. He's ran in two Grade I's, two Grade II's, and two Grade III's. With the exception of one race, he's never finished out of the money. Only has two wins, though. Seems rather unusual to see a colt this young, so heavily raced. Last out was his first attempt out of California, and over this oval. Very hard to find fault with someone so consistent.
6) Heaven's Runway(30-1, Tr. Joseph Martin; Jy. Israel Ocampo) This race marks his fifth straight dirt race. His last race was his first time to hit the board on dirt, finishing 3rd, 13 1/2 lengths behind the winner. Pass.
7) Texas Bling(20-1, Tr. Danele Durham; Jy. Calvin Borel) Races for the fourth time at Oaklawn. Didn't take to the off going in the Southwest Stakes. Prior to coming to Oaklawn, he won a race at Remington Park at 128-1. Finished second in the Smarty Jones Stakes, and wasn't too far back in the Rebel Stakes. Maybe Borel can pull this off?
8) Frac Daddy(15-1, Tr. Kenneth McPeek; Jy. Victor Lebron) Looked to be a good one in his two-year old campaign, finishing 2nd in the Kentucky Jockey Cup. His 3YO campaign hasn't been too remarkable, having run against the likes of Itsmyluckyday(track record) in the Grade III Holy Bull and Orb in the Grade I Florida Derby, both at Gulfstream Park. Comes back off only two weeks rest, but has recorded a bullet work. Looks like desperate measures, but maybe he didn't care for the Gulfstream strip? If so, maybe his 2YO year success might return?
9) Overanalyze(4-1, Tr. Todd Pletcher; Jy. Rafael Bejarano) Another colt that had high accolades as a 2YO. His last race was his 2013 debut, where he finished fifth in the Gotham, off of a 3-month layoff. Lost regular rider, John Velazquez, due to injury, but receives nice pickup in Bejarano. Thus far, his pattern is to win every other race, and, if the trend continues, he'll be on his way to Louisville.
10) Oxbow(5-2, Tr. D. Wayne Lukas; Jy. Gary Stevens) This charge has answered the bell to every dance, running, at worst 4th, in his last seven outs. Lukas is excited, and selects Stevens as his seventh jockey to ride this colt in his ninth race. Drawing the outside could be a detriment, but he has a lot of upside.
Based on performances of the last 90 days, the horse that seems to present some decent numbers would be #4 Falling Sky. Though I like #10 Oxbow, I'm going against it due to outside and continual jockey carousel. The play will be 5-10-20 on #4, and a $2 exacta box with #2 War Academy, #4, #5 Den's Legacy,#8 Frac Daddy, & #9 Overanalyze. Total - $75.