The Arkansas Derby is the last Kentucky Derby prep race this year and it figures to be one of the best with a field of 11 horses going to post.
The race is the 11th on the Oaklawn card and is set for 4:33 p.m. post time.
There are a group of potentially talented runners entered but only one horse -Long Range Toddy – has secured a berth in the Derby. Let’s look at the key players in the race and where they stand in the points race.
Improbable (8/5, Bob Baffert trainer, Jose Ortiz jockey): Highly thought of runner who has three wins and a second in four starts, but with only 25 points thus far, he can finish no worse than second if he wants to lock up a spot in the Derby. The last start was a strong second in a division of the Rebel. It was his first start since December 8, and he turned in a big effort just getting edged by Long Range Toddy. Improbable has every reason to step forward and I expect big things here.
Omaha Beach (2/1, Richard Mandella, Mike Smith): The winner of one of the divisions of the Rebel, he comes in with 37.5 points, so even a third-place finish may be enough to get him to Kentucky. He led from the second call of the race to the finish, then held on by a nose to win the race. Never been worse than third in six career starts, but five of those were maiden races.
Long Range Toddy (5/1, Steve Asmussen, Jon Court): Has a sport in the Derby with 53.5 points thanks to that division win in the Rebel, but I fully expect Improbable to turn the tables here. His last three starts have all been at Oaklawn, with a second in the Smarty Jones followed by third in the Southwest. Will be one of the late runners.
Gray Attempt (8/1, William Fires, Stewart Elliot): Has four wins in six career starts, but also only has 10 points, so he needs to run first or second here. After winning the Smarty Jones he was a bad 11th in the Southwest. The connections scaled him back to a minor stakes race towards the end of March over the surface and a win there boosted their confidence to come back here.
Galilean (10/1, Jerry Hollendorfer, Flavian Prat): The Cal-bred stepped outside of Cal-bred races for the first time in the Rebel and finished third in his division. It was a step up and a strong run convinced the connections to bring him back from Southern California to run again here. Not sure what to expect other than he should be close to the lead throughout the race.
Country House (12/1, Bill Mott, Joel Rosario): Comes in with 30 points so even a fourth-place finish could get him to the Derby. After a second in the Risen Star, he was fourth in the Louisiana Derby. Honestly at this point I don’t feel he deserves a spot in the Derby but a strong run here against the best field he has faced would go a long way towards changing my mind.