The final round of major Kentucky Derby preps are on Saturday, and Bayern and Strong Mandate need to earn points in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park.
Strong Mandate is the 9-2 third choice in the race and is sitting in 27th place in the 2014 Kentucky Derby Point Standings with 11 points. The $200,000 Keeneland purchase is coming off a fourth place finish in the Rebel (G2) and has finished behind 9-5 morning line favorite Tapiture in each of his last two starts.
A top two finish would put the D. Wayne Lukas trainee is the Kentucky Derby field, and a third place finish and 20 points would likely be enough to crack the top 20. The colt is currently listed at 25-1 in early Kentucky Derby future wagering at Bovada.
Bayern is the 2-1 second choice in the race and currently listed at 16-1 in Kentucky Derby future wagering at Bovada. The Bob Baffert trainee is perfect in two career starts and is making his stakes debut. The colt needs to land in the exacta to assure a starting spot in the gate in Louisville on the first Saturday of May.
Tapiture figures to be sent off as the betting favorite after his close up second to Hoppertunity in the Rebel. The colt has 42 points which is good for 13th in the points standings.
The colt is trained by Steve Asmussen, who has been under fire since PETA released an undercover video that did not show his barn in a good light. His top assistant Scott Blasi was fired and several racing commissions are investigating.
Owner Winchell Thoroughbreds is standing by Asmussen, who not only trains Derby contender Tapiture but also Kentucky Oaks early favorite Untapable.
The $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G1) will also offer up 100-40-20-10 points. The race will be televised live on Fox Sports 1 as part of the “Jockey Club Tour on Fox” with the 90-minute telecast getting underway at 4:30 pm (ET).
I will have selections for all of the major stakes action in Saturday’s Best Plays Report.
Let’s head out to Hot Springs for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Oaklawn Park Race 11 The Arkansas Derby G1 Post time 6:07 pm (CT)
9 Strong Mandate 9-2
8 Bayern 2-1
6 Commissioner 8-1
3 Tapiture 9-5
Strong Mandate makes his third start over the Oaklawn Park main track and is seeking his first win. The colt was no match for Tapiture two back in the Southwest (G3) but was coming back off a 3 ½-month break and did not have the best of trips. He was caught in traffic on the first turn and had to come five wide heading for home, drifting out late.
Next up in the Rebel (G2) the colt dueled for the early lead and was caught in tight and squeezed back just inside the final furlong, checking in fourth. The extra ground here will suit him and he just needs to get a better trip. The colt is a half to stakes winner Clear Mandate ($1.08 million).
Bayern makes his stakes debut for the Bob Baffert barn and when the Hall of Fame trainer ships to Hot Springs, they are usually live. Over the past five years, Baffert has started 27 horses here and has won 15 races (56%). The colt broke his maiden in his debut by 5 ¼ lengths and came back with a huge effort beating first level allowance foes going a mile, drawing away to win by 15 lengths and earning a 98 Beyer Speed Figure.
Baffert won this race in 2012 with Bodemeister who was making just his fourth start and went on to run second in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1). Only one of the last six winners of the Arkansas Derby used the Rebel as a prep and three of them raced at Santa Anita in their last start, which may “bode” well for this guy.
Commissioner will be saddled by Todd Pletcher who won this race last year with Overanalyze. The colt has not lived up to his billing in his last two starts after beating the highly regarded Top Billing in his three-year-old debut. The colt faded to finish sixth in the Fountain of Youth (G2) and then was off a beat slow and raced wide much of the trip in a third place finish in the Sunland Derby (G3) over a surface that was kind to inside speed.
The colt is bred to be a good one, by A.P. Indy out of a Touch Gold mare that has dropped a couple of other nice runners in Flaming Heart ($245,961) and Laugh Track ($555,557). Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith picks up the call as his regular rider John Velazquez is at Keeneland riding Gala Award in the Toyota Blue Grass (G1). The colt is worth a good look if he goes off near his 8-1 morning line.
WIN: Strong Mandate to win at 3-1 or better.
EXACTA: 8,9 / 3,6,8,9
TRIFECTA: 8,9 / 3,6,8,9 / 3,6,7,8,9
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