The $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) will top a fine 12-race card at Oaklawn Park on Saturday. My major focus on the day, other than the feature, will be on the late Pick 4. It’s a fairly logical sequence, but I feel that the favorite might be upended in each of the four legs. Hence, the return could be a generous one.
RACE 9: Oaklawn Handicap (G2)
A field of nine will vie in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) going 1 1/8 miles. A trio of runners will be forwardly placed in the first leg of the late Pick 4, and I will use all three. I expect a moderate early tempo and for one of them come out on top.
Pioneer Spirit (#2) (10-1) is the value play. The Brad Cox trainee had a good prep win last time and could be the inside speed of the field if sent early on by jockey Luis Saez.
RACE 10: Allowance/Optional Claimer
This first-level allowance tilt brings out 10 in a tricky handicapping assignment. Lighthawk (#2) (3-1) has shown vast improvement in his last two for trainer Ron Moquett. The logical Tapit gelding is a must use as the potential one to beat.
Combatant (#4) (5-2) must also be included. The dual Grade 2-placed son of Scat Daddy has faced stakes foes in his last 13 races and will appreciate the class relief. He is no sure thing, though, with just a single tally on his resume.
Doug O’Neill’s Meistermind (#1) (8-1) and recent maiden winner Tiz McNamara (#10) (5-1) wouldn’t surprise and are both worth inclusion.
RACE 11: Arkansas Derby (G1)
Eleven will go postward in the Arkansas Derby. Many view this as a two-horse race and, while I agree, it’s likely a different pair that I will side with than the majority will.
Galilean (#7) (10-1) is my top play at a price. The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee had trouble when a good third in the first division of the Rebel Stakes (G2) and will appreciate the added ground to work with today. Flavien Prat comes along to ride the son of Uncle Mo.
Omaha Beach (#3) (2-1) is a rising star and won in easier fashion in the second division of the Rebel last time than his chart might indicate. The War Front colt continues to fire morning bullets in preparation of this race for trainer Richard Mandella. His draw inside of the other pace in the field is the lone concern.
RACE 12: Maiden Special Weight
I tried to pare down the finale but the top contenders in the cast are difficult for me to separate. The closing leg looks to produce a logical result and I have a lot of confidence in closing the wager using a quintet of runners.
Rotation (#3) (3-1), Flatout Winner (#5) (5-1), Cowboy Diplomacy (#6) (5-2), Speed App (#7) (10-1) and Verve’s Humor (#8) (7-2), are the ones.
50-cent Pick 4 play
2,6,7 with 1,2,4,10 with 3,7 with 2,5,6,7,8 = $60
PHOTO: Galilean surveys Oaklawn Park on April 11, 2019 (c) Coady Photography/Oaklawn Park