Saturday’s closing-day program features split divisions of the $500,000 Arkansas Derby (G1), as well as competitive field in the Oaklawn H. (G1), and the 14-race program will take place over a fast track in Hot Springs.
With Charlatan appearing to be lone speed in the Arkansas Derby first division, and possessing superior Brisnet Speed ratings, the overwhelming odds-on favorite may be singled on more than 90% of the late Pick 4 tickets that begin in race 11.
I will focus instead on the late Pick 3, which kicks off with the Oaklawn Handicap and includes the second division of the Arkansas Derby.
Here are my thoughts on the sequence:
Race 12 – Oaklawn Handicap
I will lean on Brisnet ratings with #4 Mr Freeze, who has registered a 106 Speed in both starts this year. Those are easily the top recent Speed figures for any runner in the 14-horse field. Runner-up to Mucho Gusto in the Pegasus World Cup (G1), the 5-year-old horse exits a sharp three-length tally in the Feb. 29 Gulfstream Park Mile (G2).
Mr Freeze started to come on last fall for Dale Romans, posting a convincing win in the Ack Ack (G3) and placing behind Tom’s d’Etat in the Fayette (G2) and Clark (G1), and the chestnut has continued to progress this season. Listed at 6-1 on the morning line, Mr Freeze may be lower odds at post time, but he won’t be the favorite in the deep field. This may be the last chance to get a decent price before the bandwagon grows.
My top choice must still work out a trip on the front end. If he falters, I want to have #2 Trophy Chaser and #13 Night Ops on my ticket. Trophy Chaser enters on the upswing for Juan Avila, recording a pair of fine performances since stretching out to two turns this year, and Essex H. winner Night Ops brings improving form with two straight local wins for Brad Cox.
Race 13 – Arkansas Derby second division
#5 Nadal has been headstrong in all three starts, softening him up for the latter stages in both stakes efforts, and his Brisnet Speed ratings declined slightly while stretching out to two turns in the Rebel (G2). I’m never keen to bet extremely short-priced horses whose Speed figures are on the light side, with three rivals registering better last-out numbers, and Nadal stretches out to 1 1/8 miles after earning an 83 Late Pace rating. I will try to beat him.
#11 Wells Bayou has been drawn inside other speed in all five starts, but that won’t be the case Saturday and he can establish an up-close stalking trip from his outside post. The TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) winner should be in a favorable position turning for home, especially if Nadal catches pressure, and Wells Bayou has moved forward in a pair of stakes attempts for Brad Cox.
I will also use #4 King Guillermo, who registered a field-best 102 Speed rating posting a 4 3/4-length decision in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and runs well fresh for Avila.
A nondescript field of 14 will contest the 1 3/4-mile starter allowance, and I like #9 Take Charge d’Oro. With the likelihood of glacial early fractions, the race should set up perfectly for the 4-year-old, who has run well when able to establish decent positioning behind moderate paces in the past.
Take Charge d’Oro returned from a freshening at Fair Grounds two starts back and was claimed for $10,000. New trainer Chris Hartman gave him a race over the track, elevating Take Charge d’Oro to the $16,000 claiming level to avoid losing him, and the dark bay gelding finished an even fourth.
Hartman got off to a very slow start at Oaklawn, but his barn is heating up in advance of Churchill Downs’ opening on May 16, recording two wins from the last eight starts (entering Friday’s program). Wilbo easily scored at 7-1 Saturday, and Frost or Frippery rolled at 5-2 odds on Thursday. Hartman wins at a 28% clip with horses making their second start off the claim (53-race sample), and he claimed Take Charge d’Oro back after losing him in early January.
$5 Late Pick 3 Wager
- 2,4,13 with 4,11 with 9 = $30