Arkansas Derby | Race Profile
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The 2020 Arkansas Derby
About the Arkansas Derby
The Arkansas Derby is a 1 1/8th mile race hosted by Oaklawn Race Track. It was originally inaugurated in 1936 and has run continuously since outside of 1945. Today it is one of the marquee events of the Road to the Kentucky Derby as it holds a bounty of 100 derby points along with a $1 million purse.
By far, the most decorated champion of the Arkansas Derby is American Pharoah as it would help propel him to win the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2015.
In terms of American Classics winner, the Arkansas Derby has produced three Kentucky Derby winners including Sunny’s Halo in 1983, Smarty Jones in 2004 and American Pharoah in 2015.
Beyond that, seven horses have also won the Preakness Stakes with the first being Electrocutionist in 1976. Tank’s Prospect was next in 1985, followed by Pine Bluff in 1992, Smarty Jones in 2004, Afleet Alex in 2005, Curlin in 2007 and American Pharoah in 2015 as the second stage of his Triple Crown bid.
Four more horses also won the Belmont Stakes. American Pharoah is the obvious one, but he is joined by Temperance Hill from 1980, Victory Gallop in 1998 and Creator in 2016.
Most recently, Classic Empire won the 2017 Arkansas Derby after scoring in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He was then listed as the favorite in the 2017 Kentucky Derby but fell to fourth in a race eventually won by second choice Always Dreaming.
Althea set the fastest winning time over the distance of the Arkansas Derby in 1984 with a pace of 1:46.80. Only two horses have breached the 1:48.00 barrier. That includes Olympio in 1991 and Demons Begone, who each hit a tie of 1:47.60. Silver ending, Rockamundo and Cocnern each posted times of 1:48.00 flat in 1990, 1993 and 1994 respectively.
To date, the winningest trainer is Todd Pletcher who won in 2000 with Graeme Hall, 2001 with Balto Star, 2013 with Overanalyze and 2014 with Danza. Retired jockey Pat Day is the leading jockey with three wins in 1986, 1987 and 1997. Lolbolly Stable has won three total Arkansas Derby’s to lead all ownership groups in Arkansas Derby history.
Key Arkansas Derby Historical Facts
The Arkansas Derby was inaugurated in 1936 and covers 1 1/8th miles. It has been entrenched as one of the marquee events of the Road to the Kentucky Derby, and offers 100-40-20-10 points to the top four finishers. It currently has a purse of $1,000,000 and is restricted to three-year-olds.
The most notable winner in Arkansas Derby history is American Pharoah, the 2015 Triple Crown winner and 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic champion. He is just one of two Kentucky Derby winners to have also won the Arkansas Derby. However, there have been a handful of other winners who have gone on to perform admirably throughout their careers.
- Classic Empire won the 2017 Arkansas Derby and went on to be favored in the Kentucky Derby at 4/1 before finishing fourth behind Always Dreaming. He would also finish second in the Preakness Stakes.
- Creator won the 2016 Arkansas Derby but then went on to finish a dismal thirteenth in the Kentucky Derby. He rebounded well in winning the Belmont Stakes, thanks in large part to the absences of Exaggerator and Nyquist.
- American Pharoah’s picked up a win in the 2015 Arkansas Derby, then swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont to win the first Triple Crown since 1978. He then won the Haskell, finished second to Keen Ice in the Travers and ended his career on a high note with a triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He is the most expensive stallion in breeding and perhaps the most important horse of this generation.
- Bodemeister was propelled by a convincing 2012 Arkansas Derby win to the Kentucky Derby where he was listed as the 4/1 favorite. He finished second to I’ll Have Another, who also trumped him in the Preakness Stakes.
- Curlin claimed victory in the 2007 Arkansas Derby and went off as a 7/2 favorite in the Kentucky Derby, but fell to third behind Street Sense and Hard Spun. He rebounded by winning the Preakness Stakes and placing second in the Belmont. He would also win the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic and became one of the more important stallions in breeding.
- Lawyer Ron scored a double result in the 2006 Risen Star and Arkansas Derby. Though he competed in the Kentucky Derby, Lawyer Ron finish 12th. The following season the colt would win the 2007 Oaklawn Handicap, Whitney and Woodward.
- Afleet Alex was the winner of the 2005 Arkansas Derby and placed 3rd in the Kentucky Derby. He would go on to win the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
- Smarty Jones continued his vaunted winning streak in the 2004 Arkansas Derby and continued on through the Kentucky Derby, as a 3/1 favorite, and the Preakness Stakes. He was caught by Birdstone in the Belmont Stakes for his only career loss.
- In 1999, Certain became the only filly in history to win the Arkansas Derby.
- Victory Gallop scored in the 1999 Arkansas Derby. He mounted a tremendous comeback in the Kentucky Derby to go from last to second behind Real Quiet, who he lost the Preakness to as well. He then defeated Real Quiet by a nose in the Belmont Stakes. Victory Gallop was also the winner of the 1999 Whitney.
- Concern won the 1994 Arkansas Derby but elected to skip the Kentucky Derby. He finished third in the Preakness Stakes after a dazzling rally. He ended his career with a win in the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
- Pine Bluff won the 1992 Arkansas Derby after sweeping through the Remsen, Nashua and Rebel Stakes. He then placed poorly in the Kentucky Derby, finished second in the Preakness and third in the Belmont.
- Tank’s Propect won the 1985 Arkansas Derby and then caught Chief’s Head in the 1985 Preakness Stakes for his biggest career victory. He sadly broke down in the Belmont as well.
- Sunny’s Halo won the 1983 Rebel Stakes, Arkansas Derby and the Kentucky Derby.
- Temperance Hill won the 1980 Arkansas Derby and Rebel Stakes, but was an outsider in the Triple Crown. He won the Belmont Stakes as a gargantuan 53/1 underdog.
- Golden Act deserves mention for his 1979 Arkansas Derby and Louisiana Derby wins. He would run third in the Kentucky Derby and place behind Spectacular Bid in both the Preakness and Belmont. Golden Act also won the Secretariat Stakes, Lawrence Realization Stakes, Canadian International Stakes and Arkansas Derby as a three-year-old.
- Electrocutionist won the 1976 Arkansas Derby and then ran third in the Kentucky Derby before winning the Preakness Stakes. Injuries derailed him from competing in the Belmont.
- No Le Hace scored a win the 1972 Lecomte, Louisiana Derby and Arkansas Derby before finishing as the runner-up to Riva Ridge in the first two legs of the Triple Crown.