The top three finishers from last month’s Rebel (G2) meet again in Saturday’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) on the closing day of the Oaklawn Park meeting.
The race is the last Road to the Kentucky Derby point race, with 100-40-20-10 points up for grabs toward entry into the Run for the Roses.
An hour earlier at Keeneland a field of 12 will line up in the $200,000 Lexington (G3) which offers up 20-8-4-2 Derby points.
Magnum Moon burst on to the Derby Trail with a decisive 3 ½ length victory in the Rebel, stamping his ticket to Louisville on the first Saturday of May. The Todd Pletcher trainee is the 8-5 morning line favorite for the Arkansas Derby.
The Rebel runner up Solomini is back and is the 2-1 second choice. The Bob Baffert trainee did not have a clean trip heading for home and has a good shot of turning the tables. With just 34 points, the colt needs to pick up more to assure a trip to Louisville.
The Steve Asmussen trained Combatant was third in the Rebel and comes into this race with 22 Derby points, placing him 23rd in the Road to the Kentucky Derby points standings. A first or second and he stamps his ticket to Churchill Downs and a third-place finish likely gets the job done.
The Lexington has not had much impact on the Kentucky Derby in recent years. Charismatic did use the race as a prep for his Kentucky Derby victory in 1999.
The Keith Desormeaux trained My Boy Jack was third in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and was going to train up to the Kentucky Derby, but he has dropped to 20th in the point standings with 32, forcing him to go to the Lexington in hopes of picking up points and moving on to Louisville.
A victory gets him in and a runner up finish likely would give him enough points to make it the Kentucky Derby.
My Best Plays Report for Saturday will include my strongest plays from Oaklawn Park, Keeneland and Aqueduct along with the major stakes action.
Let’s head out to Oaklawn Park for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Oaklawn Park Race 11 The Arkansas Derby G1 Post time 6:18 CT
5 Solomini 2-1
6 Magnum Moon 8-5
9 Combatant 6-1
8 Quip 9-2
Solomini came up 3 ½ lengths short in the Rebel to Magnum Moon but it could have been closer. The colt came up the inside and had to steady when lacking room and got going again late to finish up well for the runner up spot. The Baffert trainee was making his first start since crossing the wire first in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) but getting DQ’d and placed third for interference in deep stretch.
That race has been key, with McKenzie coming back to win the Sham (G3) and then getting DQ’d out of a win in the San Felipe (G2). Instilled Regard came back to win the Lecomte (G3), the was fourth in the Risen Star (G2) and Santa Anita Derby (G1) and Runaway Ghost won the Sunland Derby (G3) in his most recent start. Prat figures to engage earlier here and this guy needs points to lock up a trip to Louisville on the first Saturday of May. The $270,000 Keeneland purchase has enough pedigree to handle nine furlongs, by Curlin out of a Storm Cat mare. Baffert has won this race twice in the past six years, taking the 2015 edition with American Pharoah and 2012 with Bodemeister.
Magnum Moon ran big in the Rebel earning a career top speed figure and giving Pletcher yet another big shot of winning the Kentucky Derby. The colt did not make his debut until January Gulfstream Park and then shipped to Tampa Bay Downs to easily beat Alw-1 optional claimers. The colt got a perfect trip, tracking the early pace and taking over heading for home, not really threatened late.
The colt is already locked into the Kentucky Derby field so is he really cranked 100% for this race? Pletcher has won this race four times including with Danza in 2014 and Overanalyze in 2013. The colt is the logical one to beat and Pletcher’s three-year-olds are firing on all cylinders lately, but the price may end up on the light side.
Combatant is sitting in 23rd place in the point standings with 22 and needs a top three finish to make it to Louisville. The colt ran second in the Smarty Jones and Southwest (G3) and ran behind our top two picks when third in the Rebel while beaten just a head for the runner up spot. The Asmussen trainee appears to want more ground and gets it today.
He should get an honest pace to run at and will be closing late. The $320,000 Keeneland purchase is by Scat Daddy out of a Boundary mare that has dropped six other winners including Timeless Indy ($274,868) and stakes placed Bordini ($198,215).
WIN: Solomini to win at 9-5 or better.
EXACTA: 5,6 / 5,6,8,9
TRIFECTA: 5,6 / 5,6,8,9 / 3,5,6,8,9