Derby week has finally arrived, just not the one we excepted. With most of us sheltered in place except a few in Georgia getting pedicures, at least we have some exciting horse racing action to look forward to this weekend.
We now must wait until September for the Run for the Roses, but Oaklawn Park will double the fun this Saturday by splitting the Arkansas Derby (G1) into two divisions.
With limited opportunities for three-year-olds to run and the Road to the Kentucky Derby veering off the shoulder due to the pandemic, 22 horses were entered for the Arkansas Derby.
Each division will have 11 contenders with a purse of $500,000 and offer up full Derby points based on 100-40-20-10 to the top four finishers.
“We’re in the midst of an unprecedented year,” Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery said. “We recognize that there are numerous 3-year-olds currently in training with limited racing opportunities, and our prominent partner Oaklawn Park is in a unique and important position to immediately fill a void for horsemen.“
“An extension of the Road to the Kentucky Derby will continue to evolve in the weeks ahead. Our Churchill Downs team is united in our commitment to holding the very best Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5, and it will certainly be one of the most memorable of our lifetimes,” Flanery added.
Baffert Sends Out Strong Duo
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has a major contender in each division. The undefeated Charlatan is in the first division and with no stakes earnings likely would not have made it into the field if the race had not been split.
The colt earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure in his maiden win on Feb. 16 and came back to beat first level optional claimers with a 106 Beyer in his second start which was at a mile. Baffert has won the Arkansas Derby twice, with American Pharoah in 2015 and Bodemeister in 2012.
Baffert sends out the undefeated Nadal in the second division. The colt won the Rebel (G2) over the Oaklawn Park main track in his last outing on March 14.
The first division is slated as the 11th race on the 14-race card. The field with riders: Charlatan, Martin Garcia; My Friends Beer, Declan Cannon; Mo Mosa, Kendrick Carmouche; Gouverneur Morris, John Velazquez; Jungle Runner, Tyler Baze; Shooters Shoot, Joe Talamo; Wrecking Crew, Flavien Prat; Anneau d’ Or, Juan Hernandez; Winning Impression, Julien Leparoux; Crypto Cash, Corey Lanerie; and Basin, Ricardo Santana Jr.
The second division will be the 13th race on the card. The field with riders: Finnick the Fierce, Martin Garcia; Saratogian, Joe Talamo; Storm the Court, Flavien Prat; King Guillermo, Samy Camacho Jr.; Nadal, Joel Rosario; Code Runner, Stewart Elliott; Silver Prospector, Ricardo Santana Jr.; Fast Enough, Tyler Baze; Taishan, David Cohen; Farmington Road, Javier Castellano; and Wells Bayou, Florent Geroux.
Saturday’s card also features the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) which drew a strong field that includes Improbable, By My Standards, Tacitus, Bravazo and Combatant.