Arkansas Derby 2022 Entries: Secret Oath ... she pulls ahead in the stretch and ... on April 2
Race 12: 1 1/8th (Dirt) Arkansas Derby (G1), $1.25 million, 3 (Saturday)
The Grade 1 Arkansas Derby is always a highlight this time of year because it reflects 2 very specific signs … the first being, that a spirit of competition at Oaklawn will be at an amazingly high level; the second, is that when Thoroughbred fans make it to April, they know the Kentucky Derby is not far off. Those vital KYD148 “Points” register high (100-40-20-10), and depending how many a horse currently has, it can vault them into the upper echelons of the standings. In Arkansas’ greatest horse race, some true champions have emerged (last year it was Steve Asmussen’s Super Stock), and those colts have graduated to greater stardom on the track and in the breeding shed. Despite these lofty claims, the Derby in Hot Springs is not just for male 3-yr-olds … fillies of the same age … can enter too. And this year … we have one.
Now, let’s find out about this field of 9 for the Arkansas Derby …
#1 Kavod (Jockey: M. Murrill/Trainer: C. Hartman)
Trainer Chris Hartman continues to have a nice OP Meet, and his numbers prove it (18/71 25%). Across the Arkansas Series, his colt by Lea was a mark of consistency, finishing a respectable 4th in each of those 3 races. Critique that as you will, but remember that was against some pretty solid competition. His front-end speed could be a valuable weapon, but gassing out just as the stretch arrives could be his downfall once again. Regular FG rider, Mitch Murrill is in-town to take over the mount from Francisco Arrieta. This colt has a dozen starts to his credit … more than any other entry …
#2 Chasing Time (Jockey: J. Lezcano/Trainer: S. Asmussen)
Based on the race prior to the Rebel S. (G2), I was pretty convinced that Steve Asmussen’s colt by Not This Time was poised to take on “Graded Co.” for the 1st time. After all, the connections are driven by My Racehorse mania, and his experience over the track would be an asset. It was not to be … Maybe the traffic was an issue? The fact that he just never found a comfortable spot? What we do know is that he ended up 5th in the end, which was disappointing. Horseplayers know that Asmussen does not overly work his horses in training. So, when a “bullet” breeze is fired, some sit up and take notice. This colt’s last work @OP … 1/12, 1.00.00 … take it as you will. NYRA regular … Jose Lezcano comes to Hot Springs … hmm … what to do with that info? All hard to say … I am off him …
#3 Barber Road (Jockey: R. Gutierrez/Trainer: J. Ortiz)
I continue to sing the praises of John Ortiz because he runs a solid operation, and his runners always seem to be “live.” Here is a colt by Race Day that has already earned over $400k, since his debut at Colonial Downs last summer. Since that race, Ortiz’s charge has never been out-of-the-money. Running in the local KYD Series is tough enough, but ending up with those results is downright impressive. I wouldn’t write this one off, as a horse that doesn’t like to win. Ortiz is too good at his craft to not be competitive in a race like this one. The team is once again going with the aggressive Rey Gutierrez, and we know he will do everything in his power to get to the wire with that late running mount of his.
#4 Doppleganger (Jockey: J. Velazquez/Trainer: T. Yakteen)
You will probably recognize this horse’s name (no it is not a play-on-words), because he did come from the barn of Bob Baffert. Once the KY Court upheld the 90-Day suspension, the HOF trainer’s clients were forced to make a decision. It was an easy one, in many respects. Baffert needs to take his lumps and change for the better, and now his horses can pursue avenues like this one. Tim Yakteen is no Baffert, but these runners come to his barn in-shape and ready. Lightly-raced (3 starts), especially when compared to his counterparts. SF/Starlight/Madaket are probably pleased to not see Richard Mandella’s Forbidden Kingdom entered … that colt had this one’s number in the San Vincente (G2) and San Felipe (G2). Once again, Johnny V comes into town to ride a West Coast horse, but I am not certain that the 1 1/8th will suit him, especially if the pace is controlled heavily on the engine. He is an Into Mischief, and we all know how Authentic dispelled the notion that his sire could only produce sprinters. More to prove … that is the tact I will take.
#5 Un Ojo (Jockey: R. Vazquez/Trainer: R. Courville)
The “one-eyed wonder” of a horse was just splendid when he and Ramon Vazquez shot up the rail in the icy drizzle to win the Rebel S. last month at Oaklawn. It was a signature score at odds of 75/1. The result was not that ridiculous, especially if you consider this son of Laoban’s performance in the Grade 3 Withers S. That was a 2nd Place finish to Early Voting, and his odds were double-digits then too … 28/1. Tony Dutrow managed him for the Louisiana-based Ricky Courville in that instance. Once again, this “wonder,” who lost his left eye earlier in his life because of an accident, proved that he belonged on this Trail. I will not be picking him on top come Sunday, but I still think he has a shot … and is a pretty special colt. Talk about a runner who likes to play the role of the underdog …
#6 Secret Oath (Jockey: L. Contreras/Trainer: DW Lukas)
The filly is here … she has arrived to face the boys … and her trainer is none other than a legendary figure in this world, Mr. D.W. Lukas. The master of measurement certainly understands the perils of this move, especially since he passed up the OP prep for the Oaks … The plan morphed into this avenue when everyone under the sun could not stop talking about her speed figs. Lukas is going to tempt fate, and send her up against some formidable foes. She is up to the challenge, and I like the way this HOF conditioner is sticking with Luis Contreras … a rider that at one point was better than Joel Rosario in his country, as an up-and-coming rider. Coming to America is always a bold move, and we are still waiting for his star to rise even further. Come Saturday … that might just come to fruition. I give her a big chance, and she is my top pick that, I predict, will go to the Kentucky Derby. It is great to see Lukas back in the spotlight. It is deserved …
#7 Ben Diesel (Jockey: J. Court/Trainer: D. Stewart)
There was much to like about this Dallas Stewart runner that tried hard in the Smarty Jones $250k slop back on New Year’s Day. Since running a disappointing 7th in that contest, he just doesn’t seem to have the zip that is necessary to keep up with the leaders. Ridden by veteran Jon Court, the Will Take Charge colt got a dream trip in the Southwest S. (G3), and only managed to eek out 3rd. The Rebel Stakes was no better, as Willis Horton’s runner was seemingly on the Carousel up in the Grandstand at Oaklawn, instead of trying to get to the wire. Stewart is strong when it comes to tricks up his sleeve, and he is going to need one, if he wants to visit the winner’s circle come Saturday afternoon.
#8 Cyberknife (Jockey: F. Geroux/Trainer: B. Cox)
It wouldn’t be a matchup of training titans without a runner from Brad Cox’s fine establishment. I think this Gun Runner colt owned by Gold Square is very talented, and he certainly proved that in an OC50kn1x at the Fair Grounds last time out. Florent Geroux knows this runner’s abilities, and I think he has a good shot to hit-the-board. Cox’s numbers are always excellent when it comes to “next out” entries, but this is a pretty competitive “ask” for this 3-yr-old. It might just be too tough a race, and I wouldn’t mind seeing this one comeback to the track later in the year at Saratoga, for instance. The elephant in the room is how will he take to Oaklawn’s dirt surface. He has not faced competition like this, and it’s going to take a flawless effort to get the job done … Cox is dangerous, but he isn’t invincible.
#9 We The People (Jockey: F. Prat/Trainer: R. Brisset)
If there is a true “wild card” in this Grade 1 affair then it must be this runner from the barn of Rudy Brisset. Sure, he has a pair of wins to his credit in as many races, but stepping onto this stage is going to be a hill to climb. The services of Flavian Prat will be welcome … he must be stopping through enroute to NYRA, where he is shifting his tack. How this high-priced son of Constitution will respond against more powerful company will be hugely interesting. He has the benefit of success on the Oaklawn dirt, and that could go a long way to pushing him into the Derby Talk. Brisset himself is intriguing because he seems overshadowed by larger outfits like Cox and Asmussen. Note … he is just as good a trainer as anyone, in my opinion, especially at Oaklawn and on the KY Circuit. Watch out for this one … he could flip the script very easily. Dangerous … very dangerous …
Join us Saturday for all of our free picks! It is going to be another raucous Arky Day at Oaklawn! So enjoy … suey, suey, suey … Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter … Horseracing_USA !!!