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Arkansas Derby Winners

Who has won the Arkansas Derby?

The Arkansas Derby is the crown jewel of racing at Oaklawn Park. The race has been hosted annually since 1936 at 1 1/8th miles specifically for three-year-old colts. Today the race is not only worth $1,000,000, it also offers 100 derby points to the winner for entry in to the first leg of the Triple Crown.

In 1973, the Arkansas Derby was awarded Grade-II status and upgraded to Grade-I in 1981. However, the race was relegated back a grade from 1989 through 2009. It was reinstalled as a Grade-I race in 2009 thanks in large part to the improved prestige generated by 2004 winner Smarty Jones.

Only three horses have won the Arkansas Derby and then gone on to win the Kentucky Derby. These include Sunny’s Halo (1983), Smarty Jones (2004) and American Pharoah (2015).

The list of horses that have also gone on to win the Preakness Stakes include Elocutionist(1976), Tank's Prospect (1985), Pine Bluff (1992), Smarty Jones(2004), Afleet Alex (2005), Curlin (2007) and American Pharoah (2015).

Five winners have also scored in the Belmont Stakes including Temperence Hill (1980), Victory Gallop (1998), Afleet Alex (2005), American Pharoah (2015) and Creator (2016).

American Pharoah, Curlin and Concern (1994) are also dual winners in the Arkansas Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The speed record for the Arkansas Deby is held by Althea, who ran a staggering 1:46.80 in 1984.

Pat Day has won the most Arkansas Derby with a total of three. He scored back-to-back wins in 1986 with Rampage and 1987 with Demons Begone. He won a decade later with Crypto Star.

Todd Pletcher is the winningest trainer at the Arkansas Derby having won back-to-back titles on two separate occasions. He first won with Graeme Hall in 2000 and Balto Star in 2001. Pletcher next won at Oaklawn’s marquee event with Overanalyze in 2013 and Danza in 2014.

The current champion of the Arkansas Derby is Classic Empire who went on to place 4th in the 2017 Kentucky Derby and 2nd in the Preakness Stakes.

More 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.

Arkansas Derby Past Winners

4/15/17Classic Empire
4/11/15American Pharoah
4/10/10Line of David
4/11/09Papa Clem
4/15/06Lawyer Ron
4/16/05Afleet Alex
4/10/04Smarty Jones
4/12/03Sir Cherokee
4/13/02Private Emblem
4/14/01Balto Star
4/15/00Graeme Hall
4/11/98Victory Gallop
4/12/97Crypto Star
4/13/96Zarb's Magic
4/22/95Dazzling Falls
4/18/92Pine Bluff
4/21/90Silver Ending
4/23/88Proper Reality
4/18/87Demons Begone
4/20/85Tank's Prospect
4/16/83Sunny's Halo
4/11/81Bold Ego
4/12/80Temperence Hill
4/14/79Golden Act
4/1/78Esops Foibles
4/2/77Clev Er Tell