With the forecast looking dry and temperatures expected to reach into the 80s, the final three days of the 2020 Oaklawn Park meet this week are shaping up to be blockbusters.
Following a conventional nine-race card on Thursday, Friday’s 10-race program is highlighted by the $400,000 Fantasy (G3) for 3-year-old fillies over 1 1/16 miles. A Road to the Kentucky Oaks series prep which offers qualifying points of 100-40-20-10 to the top four finishers for the big race on Sept. 4, the Fantasy has attracted its deepest and most talented field in years due to the current lack of other opportunities.
The marquee names in the Fantasy are reigning champion juvenile champion British Idiom and rising California-based star Venetian Harbor. British Idiom will look to bounce back to winning form after losing her first career start in the Rachel Alexandra (G2) in February, while Venetian Harbor will get her first serious test after a runaway score in the Las Virgenes (G2).
The field also includes other Road to the Kentucky Oaks series prep winners Swiss Skydiver, Harvey’s Lil Goil, Lake Avenue, Shedaresthedevil, and Lazy Daisy.
Saturday’s marathon 14-race card concludes the meet and the Racing Festival of the South. With 22 3-year-olds passing the entry box, the Arkansas Derby (G1) has been split into two divisions worth $500,000 each. Each division will carry Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying points of 100-40-20-10.
The expected heavy favorite in the first division is the Bob Baffert-trained Charlatan, who’s won his first two starts by a combined margin of 16 lengths and will be making his stakes debut in the 1 1/8-mile test. He’ll face Grade 1 veterans Anneau d’Or, Gouverneur Morris, and Basin, all of whom look to bounce back from recent defeats.
The second division seems more competitive on paper with a field that includes Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Wells Bayou, Rebel (G2) hero Nadal, Tampa Bay Derby (G2) upsetter King Guillermo, and reigning juvenile colt champion Storm the Court.
In between the two Arkansas Derby divisions, a talented group of older horses will square off in the $600,000 Oaklawn H. (G2), also over 9 furlongs. The wide-open affair includes By My Standards, Tacitus, Mr Freeze, Improbable, and Combatant.