Oaklawn Park’s penultimate 85-point Kentucky Derby qualifier event is scheduled to go to the post at 5:23 p.m. CT on Saturday. The $1 million Rebel (G1) drew just a field of eight and is likely to see an off track based on the weather forecast in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Despite the lack of a full field, there should still be an honest pace. #5 No Parole has been on the engine in all three starts in Louisiana, #1 Nadal drew the rail and stretches out for the initial time to two turns, and #3 Basin and #8 American Theorem both have tactical speed and are likely to be keen coming off a significant layoff. This does not necessarily mean a cutthroat battle, but it should ensure a fair chance for all assuming they get over the off going.  

Here are my thoughts on each runner:

#1 Nadal is second on my Top 10 on kentuckyderby.com, but there are a lot of variables here making a short price hard to swallow. The son of Blame is making his first start outside of Santa Anita, is trying two turns for the initial time, has never raced over an off track, and may be forced to deal with kickback if he does not break well from the rail. I love his talent, but I cannot accept a short price on Saturday.

#2 Excession was outrun in both of his starts in Derby preps at Fair Grounds and appears overmatched here. Perhaps he can pick up the pieces for third or fourth if they go extremely fast early on.

#3 Basin did very little wrong in his 2-year-old campaign that included a 6 ½ length romp in the Hopeful (G1). The Liam’s Map colt has proven he can perform well over a sloppy racetrack and is the lone Grade 1 winner in the field. He may need a race off the bench to be at his best, but otherwise he makes a ton of sense on Saturday as he attempts to stamp himself as a legitimate Derby contender.

#4 Silver Prospector raced against the flow of the race two-back in the Smarty Jones S., but got a dream trip and took full advantage of it with a victory last time out in the Southwest (G3). He has a win over the slop last year in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs and has the tactical speed to make his own trip. I question his ability to get the 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in May, but it is easy to make a case for him in this spot. I am just concerned he will be a bit too far out of it early to get to the wire first. An underneath key. 

#5 No Parole gets a class check as he ventures outside of Louisiana-breds for the first time. The son of Violence has dominated his state-bred foes in all three starts for trainer Tom Amoss, but has had things his way on the front end in each of those tries. With other early zip signed on, his task is a tough one.

#6 Three Technique finished second in his first start as a 3-year-old in the Smarty Jones S., but was up against that day chasing the slow pace set by eventual winner Gold Street. He has been well rested since that runner-up effort and appears to be training well over this surface for a barn that has had some success at the meet. He will need to overcome his gate issues to beat this group, but he is one that could take advantage of a contentious first half mile.

#7 Coach Bahe came from off the pace over a muddy racetrack in a race washed off the turf on Feb. 5 to break his maiden for trainer Phil Bauer. He will need to take a huge step forward in his first try versus winners to be a factor in here.

#8 American Theorem was all the rage when breaking his maiden in late Aug. at Del Mar. He was made the 2-1-favorite and did not disappoint. The Kretz Racing runner came back and ran a solid second to Eight Rings in the American Pharoah (G1) and has not been seen since. I expect him to need a race off the bench, but the talent is there to be competitive against this type of field.

Suggested Wagers:

  • $2 Trifecta Key: 3+6 with 4 with 1+2+3+6+8 = $16
  • $2 Trifecta Key: 3+6 with 3+6+8 with 4 = $8