Arkansas Derby Preview: Horse-by-Horse Analysis of Saturday's Grade I Race @OP

It might be a short field, but this year's Grade I Arkansas Derby appears to be a race that is shaping up to be Bob Baffert's entries vs. the rest. Take a look at this in-depth analysis . . .
It might be a short field, but this year's Grade I Arkansas Derby appears to be a race that is shaping up to be Bob Baffert's entries vs. the rest. Take a look at this in-depth analysis . . .

1 1/8th (Dirt), Arkansas Derby (G1), Purse $1 Million, 3

The Grade I Arkansas Derby is our final major Kentucky Derby Prep Race of the 2021 Season. In the past, this has served as a bell-weather for the Trail, and how it will unfold. Not every winner of this celebrated race in Hot Springs goes on to immediate success, but you count on them to be a major player in the colt division—sometimes for years to come.

Successful wire winners include the little horse that could—Smarty Jones, power runner—Curlin, the Triple Champ—American Pharoah, and many, many more. Trainers Todd Pletcher, Bob Baffert, Steve Asmussen, Mark Casse, John Sadler, and Richard Mandella, are some of the recent conditioners who have tasted victory in what has mounted to a $1 Million race for over 17+ years.

Last year, under COVID conditions, the race was uniquely split into 2 divisions. Also, the pair of races were moved to what would have been Kentucky Derby Day! Now, returning to its original spot on the calendar, early April, it is time to get down to business. Up for grabs are points that include, 100-40-20-10, which will be applied for entry into the Starting Gate on the “First Saturday in May.”

Now, let’s find out about this field…


#1 Super Stock (Jky: R. Santana/Trn: S. Asmussen):

If you look back over the efforts of this Asmussen-trained colt, you will find some good form dating back to running at Lone Star Park last August. Out of Dialed In, this runner always seems to be hanging around towards the end. “Game,” if there ever was one . . . Coming off the bench in the Rebel (G2) @OP was an incredible challenge considering the company he was facing. At 41/1, 4th was not a bad showing out of 8. He is going to have to find more facing the Baffert twins. If I had to pick a jock for this assignment, then I would say there is no better fighter than Ricardo Santana Jr. You know he will not be food, when this one is done. Sleeper pick, as far as I am concerned . . .

Grade: B+


#2 Caddo River (Jky: F. Geroux/Trn: B. Cox):

It is safe to say of the G2 Rebel "returners," this colt was the most disappointing of the lot. The short-priced frontender simply did not fire for Brad Cox when the button was pushed by jockey Florent Geroux. Many, including me, believed that this colt out of Hard Spun could build on his Smarty Jones 150k win from back in January. It didn’t happen. Now, Cox needs a recalibration, which could provide a new lease on life. To make it to the Derby, he is going to need a major effort. I am skeptical that he can turn things around, and even hit the board. For once, I am underwhelmed by a Cox entry. That might seem like sacrilege, especially when we are talking about a homebred . . . call it a gut feeling.    

Grade: C


#3 Hozier (Jky: M. Garcia/Trn: B. Baffert):

The impressive connections in this Baffert entry include SF and Starlight Racing. Both bring a celebrated acumen when it comes to their breeding selections. There is no question that last time in the Rebel (G2), this colt out of Pioneerof the Nile, was impressive when he finished 2nd to his stablemate, Concert Tour #5. Going 1-2, proved that Baffert’s strength at Oaklawn continues. Interesting that the conditioner chose to have both colts return to his base at Santa Anita for further workouts. Now, with former Baffert go-to rider Martin Garcia shepherding this young one along once again, you never know if he could leap frog to victory. It could happen . . . he is that talented.

Grade: B+


#4 Get Her Number (Jky: F. Arrieta/Trn: P. Miller):

Back in the early fall, there was some chatter after this Peter Miller colt exhibited some breakaway speed in the American Pharoah (G1) at Santa Anita. It was a commanding performance against the likes of Rombauer and Spielberg, 2 Derby Trail foes that have had some nice moments. Everyone was waiting to find out where Miller would enter next. Time continued to elapse . . . no son of Dialed In. Finally, in the Rebel (G2), he showed up, appearing ready to run. At 14/1 odds, it was hard to imagine that he could even obtain one of the minor awards. Finishing 7 out of 8 was pretty telling. How you make an argument that he can somehow muster the strength to upset this field is a mystery. If he can, it will be a major score for those that back him. I will not be one of them.

Grade: C-


#5 Concert Tour (Jky: J. Rosario/Trn: B. Baffert):

That fluorescent pink that washes over Joel Rosario’s shoulders, forming his silks, is reflective of its owners, Gary and Mary West. They are desperate to return to Churchill, and rectify what was lost almost 2 years ago. They have the right trainer—Bob Baffert, the right jockey—Rosario, and apparently, the right horse, in this son of Street Sense. If he offers even ¾ of the "umph" that he did in the Rebel (G2), then this race is his for the taking. Somehow over the past month, the West’s colt has gone to the lead among Baffert’s contenders for the KYD147. With the faltering of Medina Spirit and the injury sustained by Life Is Good, now this runner appears to be the HOF trainer’s best shot at a record Derby win. All Joel Rosario has to do is get the job done.

Grade: A-


#6 Last Samurai (Jky: J. Court/Trn: D. Stewart):

If there is a trainer who knows how to play the role of spoiler, it is Dallas Stewart. His conditioning continues to be inventive, and you should not sleep on any of his runners. This colt did not acquit himself well, last time out in the Southwest (G3). In his defense, he was up against Essential Quality and Spielberg. That is why he was 57/1. Still, I think his Malibu Moon bloodlines, plus the experience of Jon Court should not be underestimated. Court continues to not just “show up,” but he competes at a high-level. Willis Horton Racing got this one from Stonestreet T-Breds, and they do not do anything halfway. Maybe his level of fitness has improved since that last run @OP, and that makes this one a major overlay, if you are gutsy enough to bet him.

Grade: B-


Join us Saturday for all of our Oaklawn Park selections! Should be a great set of races from sunny Hot Springs!

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