Arkansas Derby 2019: Odds and analysis

April 10, 2019 02:09pm
Arkansas Derby 2019: Odds and analysis
Photo: Coady Photography

Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby marks the last chance for 11 3-year-olds to qualify for the 2019 Kentucky Derby as they try to get a piece of the 100-40-20-10 spread of points available to the Top 4 finishers. It appears that this year, it will require a record number of points to qualify for the May 4 Derby, and that from this field, only Long Range Toddy is safely in with his 53.5 points.

Since 2000, the winner of this Oaklawn Park mile and an eighth stake has gone on to win one Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby twice, the Preakness four times and three Belmont Stakes.

Oaklawn carded the Arkansas Derby as Race 11, with a 7:43 p.m. ET post time. 
Here is a full field analysis with the official morning line:
 

Improbable [ML 8-5 – City Zip – B. Baffert/J.Ortiz – 4: 3-1-0 - $419,520 – 25 Derby points] He took the first loss of his career in the Rebel (G2) when Long Range Toddy ran him down with a secondary closing move. This son of City Zip had rallied from fifth and had the lead at the stretch call. A Top 3 finish should be enough to get him into the Derby field. As an excuse, he may not have had time to react to the winner, who came up the rail to win, and ran wide. That was his 2019 debut, so he should be at 100% now. Baffert has the services of Jose Ortiz for the first time, as he replaces Drayden Van Dyke. Blinkers will also go on after Improbable was seen working in them since the Rebel. Win contender.

Six Shooter [ML 30-1 – Trappe Shot – P. Holthus/D. Cohen – 10: 3-0-4 - $168,850 – 2 Derby points] This Paul Holthus runner is long on experience with three starts at Oaklawn Park including two fourth-place finishes on their Derby trail. His three wins came at distances of less than a mile. Pretender.
 

Omaha Beach [ML 2-1 – War Front – R. Mandella/M. Smith – 6: 2-3-1 - $521,800 – 37.5 Derby points] Omaha Beach likely needs to run in the Top 4 to wrap up a spot in the Kentucky Derby field. As trainer Richard Mandella tries for his first victory in the Run for the Roses, it is all about his horse’s last two races. Long range weather reports call for rain and a sloppy track, which would suit the son of War Front well, as he broke his maiden on a wet Santa Anita surface by nine lengths. Then in his first start on the Derby trail, he defeated Game Winner with a pace-pressing effort in the other division of the Rebel. My top choice.

Tikhvin Flew [ML 30-1 – Street Sense – S. Asmussen/T. Baze – 3: 1-0-1 - $58,400 – 0 Derby points] He began his career with Steve Asmussen’s New York string, winning at first asking, and then was third behind Derby qualified Haikal in the Jimmy Winkfield. After a poor performance in the Gotham Stakes (G3), he shipped to Oaklawn Park for this one around two turns. Toss
 

Laughing Fox [ML 20-1 – Union Rags – S. Asmussen/R. Santana Jr. – 5: 2-0-0 - $108,518 – 0 Derby points] He recorded a maiden and an allowance win at Oaklawn Park in the late winter. But in Omaha Beach's division of the Rebel last time, he was pinched back at the start and then did not show his usual late closing move. Toss

Gray Attempt [ML 8-1 – Graydar – W. Fires/S. Elliot – 6: 4-0-0 - $261,366 – 10 Derby points] This son of Graydar took the Smarty Jones wire to wire early on Oaklawn Park's Derby trail. He then faded badly in the Southwest (G3) after a troubled trip into the first turn. In an interesting move, trainer Jinks Fires cut Gray Attempt back to a sprint for a flashy victory in an overnight stakes. This one has only raced on the lead in his six career starts and will provide plenty of pace to this Grade 1. Toss.

Galilean [ML 10-1 – Uncle Mo – J. Hollendorfer/F. Prat – 5: 3-1-1 - $336,000 – 7.5 Derby points] This California-bred son of Uncle Mo made the jump from state-bred races to the Derby trail last time out and got a third behind Long Range Toddy and Improbable. He was beaten by 2 ½ lengths while running with the early pace setters. Blinkers come off with the hopes that he can rate a bit more in here. Use underneath.

Country House [ML 12-1 – Lookin At Lucky – B. Mott/J. Rosario – 5: 1-2-0 - $160,175 – 30 Derby points] Right on the Kentucky Derby bubble, he needs to grab some of the available points to join his stablemate Tacitus on the first Saturday in May. After he raced greenly down the stretch to get second in the Risen Star (G2), Country House was put to a drive early on in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and came up a bit empty down the stretch. Did this Bill Mott runner gain the type of experience to help him make one big, late move and keep a straight path? If so, he could be a threat at the finish. Note the jockey change to Joel Rosario, who is a strong rider and does some of his best work with closers. Live longshot
 

One Flew South [ML 50-1 – Giant’s Causeway – D. O’Neill/C. Borel – 2: 1-0-0 - $14,100 – 0 Derby points] Never one to fear taking a shot in a big race, trainer Doug O’Neill sends One Flew South in this Grade 1 race with only a maiden win at Turfway Park on the synthetic track. He followed that victory with a fifth in the Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland in February. Pretender.

Jersey Agenda [ML 30-1 – Jersey Town – S. Asmussen/R. Vasquez – 5: 2-1-0 - $142,567 – 0 Derby points] This Charles Fipke homebred looked promising in his first three starts, but when he stepped onto the Derby trail he did not keep up in the Southwest and the Rebel. He appears to be up against it as a horse that likes to push the early pace. Toss.
 

Long Range Toddy [ML 5-1 – Take Charge Indy – S. Asmussen/J. Court – 7: 4-1-1 - $851,125 – 53.5 Derby points] His hard-knocking style was rewarded when he beat Improbable in the rebel. This Asmussen runner emerged when he won Remington Park's Springboard Mile in December, then has showed up for ever Oaklawn Park stop on the Derby trail. Seemingly, he has thrived on more competition. Once again, I expect him to be right there coming to the wire. Win contender.

Summary
: Some nice horses are going to miss the Kentucky Derby this year because they were late to get into points races. Now, the strategy is go big or stay home.

There appears to be sufficient speed in this field from Jersey Agenda, Gray Attempt, and Tikhvin Flew to set things up for the off the pace runners.

Improbable, Omaha Beach, and Long Range Toddy should sit similar stalking trips and there could be quite a stretch duel between these three favorites.

However, Rosario may be the perfect rider for Country House. His combination of strength and timing with closers could provide Mott runner with a perfect trip while getting the last late run down the stretch.


 

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