Creator launched his rally on the far turn and accelerated past rivals in the stretch to win Saturday’s Arkansas Derby (G2) by 1 ¼ lengths, stamping his Kentucky Derby ticket in the final major prep race.

The Tapit colt will give trainer Steve Asmussen two runners in the Kentucky Derby field along with Gun Runner.

The bubble burst for Cupid, who weakened badly to 10th and will bypass the first leg of the Triple Crown despite having enough points (50) via his victory in the Rebel (G2). The Bob Baffert-trained colt will instead undergo a minor surgical procedure to fix an entrapped epiglottis and could be re-directed to the Preakness (G1).

Earlier this week, I took a closer look at the Kentucky Derby contenders following the conclusion of the prep season.

Arkansas Derby

Creator dropped to last leaving the starting gate, about three lengths behind his closest rival entering the first turn, and continued to trail in the 12-horse field to the far turn. He started to advance entering the far turn and closed between rivals entering the stretch, bullying his way past Whitmore in tight quarters to strike the front with a sixteenth of a mile remaining.

The gray sophomore quickly drew clear in a convincing tally, registering a career-best 100 BRIS Speed rating as well as a 101 Late Pace number.

Don’t be fooled by Creator’s early form – he’s come a long way since dropping his first five starts, graduating with a 7 ¼-length score over maiden special weight foes on February 27. He followed with a respectable third in the Rebel, having to alter course in traffic in upper stretch while rallying boldly, and the fast-improving colt will bring a formidable late kick to the Kentucky Derby field.

With a stout female family, the added distance should be no issue for Creator and he figures to be overlooked in the wagering despite a highly-encouraging performance in the final prep.

Creator is a late runner I’ll be using underneath in Kentucky Derby vertical wagers.

Suddenbreakingnews was passed by Creator on the far turn but finished up well after straightening for home, closing widest of all to be a clear second. The dedicated closer also ran well capturing the Southwest (G3) two starts previously, but the Donnie Von Hemel-trained gelding must avoid leaving himself too much to do in the stretch drive at Churchill Downs.

Whitmore corners better than Suddenbreakingnews, advancing past foes to put himself in a prime spot with three-sixteenths of a mile remaining, but lacked the necessary late kick in a third-place effort. His runner-up efforts in the Southwest and Rebel were similar – the gelding failed to deliver in the latter stages despite being well-placed – and Whitmore’s only wins have come in 6-furlong races.

The top three finishers are all guaranteed a spot in the Kentucky Derby field, but Creator is the only one I’m viewing as a serious top three candidate.

Upcoming

I’ll give some further thoughts upon this year’s Kentucky Derby field next week before publishing my final selections on Thursday, May 5.

Top 10

1) Gun Runner – Like his turn of foot & improving colt holds a tenuous advantage with less than three weeks remaining

2) Mor Spirit – Runner-up efforts in San Felipe & Santa Anita Derby served as perfect building blocks; Baffert-trained Derby winners Silver Charm & Real Quiet also finished second in their final two preps

3) Nyquist – Don’t want to take a short price at the 1 ¼-mile distance but unbeaten 2yo champ worries me

4) Exaggerator – Santa Anita Derby winner has developed into a formidable one-run closer for the Desormeaux brothers

5) Outwork – Not sure what he was beating in a narrow Wood Memorial win but his speed could be dangerous

6) Creator – He’ll be rallying in the Kentucky Derby stretch

7) Suddenbreakingnews – Exotics contender must avoid leaving himself too much to do

8) Brody’s Cause – Rebounded nicely in Blue Grass but lower BRIS Speed ratings are a concern

9) Mo Tom – His propensity for troubled trips isn’t enticing but packs a serious late punch

10) Destin – Up-and-coming colt could be a race short off a planned eight-week freshening

Archive

Here are my previous Kentucky Derby Reports:

April 13: Redemption for Brody’s Cause, Exaggerator; Outwork prevails in first stakes win

April 6: Nyquist romps, Mohaymen fizzles in Florida Derby

March 30: Gun Runner won’t silence critics with convincing win

March 22: Cupid dazzles in stakes debut

March 16: Danzing Candy impresses with speed, Destin makes it two straight

March 9: Shagaf grinds out Gotham

March 2: Mohaymen posts another easy win ahead of showdown

February 24: Bullish on Gun Runner

February 17: Nyquist returns a stylish winner

February 10: Baffert remains in the spotlight with Mor Spirit

February 3: Mohaymen justifies star billing

January 20: Stakes-experience proves valuable

January 13: Sham winner doesn’t run fast but plenty of time remains

January 7: January brings a sense of anticipation