Arkansas Derby The Main Draw At Oaklawn

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has a chance to win the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park for a second time in three years on Saturday, and again with a speedy colt who will have made his debut only three months previously.

The comparisons are inexact, but the undefeated Bayern is a progressive colt in the mold of Bodemeister, who romped to a 9 1/4-length victory for Baffert in the 2012 Arkansas Derby. Like Bodemeister, Bayern did not start until January of his three-year-old season and has shown an affinity for being on or near the lead.

Tapiture, who couldn't quite hold off the winner in a roughly-run Rebel, was made the 9-5 morning line favorite for the Arkansas Derby. His runner-up finish was his first defeat after back-to-back, 4 1/4-length victories in the Southwest and Kentucky Jockey Club. Joel Rosario, who rode Orb to victory in last year's Run for the Roses, replaces Ricardo Santana aboard the Tapit colt.

Strong Mandate, last year's Hopeful winner, was a wide-trip second to Tapiture in the Southwest, and then a fading fourth in the Rebel when encountering some trouble at the eighth pole after setting a pressured pace.

Ride On Curlin occupied the third slot in both the Southwest and Rebel, the latter as an 11-1 shot pressing Strong Mandate for nearly a mile. Like that rival, he might fare better coming from slightly off the pace.

Todd Pletcher, who won this race for a third time last season with Overanalyze, will saddle two here. Commissioner has encountered speed-friendly surfaces in his two stakes appearances: a sixth-place finish in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream and a third in the Sunland Derby. The cleverly-named Danza was narrowly defeated in the Saratoga Special last August and was most recently a distant third in a seven-furlong allowance in his sophomore debut.

Trainer Mark Casse also starts two in the Arkansas Derby. Stakes winner Conquest Titan was second to Cairo Prince in the Holy Bull two back, but was a no-excuse fourth as the favorite in the Tampa Bay Derby last time. Casse's other entry, Thundergram, takes a big leap up in class after a first-level allowance loss at Oaklawn March 16.

The field is completed by Knock Em Flat, a probable pace player following a front-running, 5 3/4-length maiden win in the slop.

The other big one on Saturday for this fine day of racing is the $600,000 Oaklawn H. (G2), which might draw 2013 Champion Three-year-old Will Take Charge. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, the four-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song has been a monster since removing the blinkers last campaign and has been sharp in defeat from a pair of recent runs, in the Donn H. (G1) and Santa Anita H. (G1). The colt looks best here and will be formidable over a race track he has experience upon.

Golden Lad was a 6 1/2–length romper of the Razorback (G3) leading up to this point and could be the one to catch as a peaking horse who loves the oval. The Todd Pletcher-trained son of Medaglia d’Oro has won or placed in seven straight and also has heart, shown by a pair of close wins this season. 2013 Louisiana Derby (G2) winner and Kentucky Derby (G1) third Revolutionary, the rapidly improving Carve, Grade 1-placed course specialist Frac Daddy and multiple graded winner Prayer for Relief, are also on board.

The other pair of stakes runs on Saturday is the $100,000 Northern Spur S and the $100,000 Instant Racing S., while the Friday feature is the Friday $600,000 Apple Blossom S. (G1) for fillies and mares. Rising stakes star Teen Pauline, Grade 2 heroine Dreaming of Julia, defending champ On Fire Baby and Bill Mott’s multiple Grade 1 sensation Close Hatches, will be the main players.

2014 G1 $1,000,000 Arkansas Derby Stakes Information (Click here for FREE Arkansas Derby PP's courtesy of

Date: Saturday, April 12
Where:  Oaklawn Park, Arkansas
Post Time: 7:07pm ET
TV: TwinSpiresTV
Distance: 1 1/8 Mile Dirt
Purse: $1,000,000
Arkansas Derby Stakes wagering may include: First Half Late Daily Double / Exacta / 50 Cent Trifecta / 10 Cent Superfecta

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Field and odds for the 2014 G1 $1,000,000 Arkansas Derby Stakes

1 Danza Bravo Joe Pletcher Todd A.
2 Knock Em Flat Quinonez Luis S. Von Hemel Donnie K.
3 Tapiture Rosario Joel Asmussen Steven M.
4 Ride On Curlin Court Jon Kenton Gowan William G.
5 Thundergram Arroyo, Jr. Norberto Casse Mark E.
6 Commissioner Smith Mike E. Pletcher Todd A.
7 Conquest Titan Borel Calvin H. Casse Mark E.
8 Bayern Stevens Gary L. Baffert Bob
9 Strong Mandate Saez Luis Lukas D. Wayne