What a card the racing office at Oaklawn Park has assembled for Arkansas Derby Day on Saturday. There are 14 races and a plethora of wagering opportunities. That includes a Pick 5 that starts in Race 10 and involves both divisions of the Arkansas Derby (G1), as well as an extremely challenging edition of the Oaklawn Handicap (G2). Let’s get to it.
The pace should be contentious in this high-level optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles given the presence of #2 Ginobili and #10 Prodigious Bay. Ginobili brings a strong resume into Saturday, but has never gone two turns and is bred to be a sprinter. Prodigious Bay was impressive in breaking his maiden in his initial try going a route of ground, but that came on a loose lead in the slop. Both have their work cut out for them against this bunch.
#11 Rushie is listed as the 5-2-morning line top choice after finishing a distant second to Charlatan in mid-March. He draws favorably outside the two speed horses, which should allow Joel Rosario to work out a perfect stalking trip. He is one of the likeliest winners, but will offer little value. The same can be said for #7 Candy Tycoon. The runner-up in this year’s Fountain of Youth (G2) was no factor in the Florida Derby (G1) in late March, but should get a great trip on the class drop for Todd Pletcher. Both are must uses as is #12 Background. The son of Khozan has struggled to get out of the gates, but has shown a strong turn of foot. If Tyler Baze can break cleanly and avoid a wide voyage, the Michael Puhlich trainee is capable of springing the upset.
Race 11: Arkansas Derby (Division 1)
I will not try to beat #1 Charlatan in the first division of the Arkansas Derby. The $700,000 son of Speightstown is the fastest horse based on Brisnet Speed ratings, is likely to be loose on the lead, and has a trainer that excels at having horses ready for big races. Single the heavy chalk and move on.
Race 12: Oaklawn Handicap
I expect most horseplayers to spread deep in an extremely competitive 9-furlong event for 4-year-olds and upward. Since I am leaning on a couple of short priced runners in other legs I am going to look to a few horses that should offer a bit of separation.
#2 Trophy Chaser comes in fresh after a pair of triple-digit Brisnet Speed ratings to start his 4-year-old campaign. When last seen, the son of Twirling Candy showed a ton of grit and determination in besting the talented King for a Day in the Challenger (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs. The Juan Avila trainee should be able to work out a perfect pocket trip just off the early pacesetters. If he can translate his Florida form to Arkansas, he has a huge shot.
#11 Tax finished a disappointing ninth in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) in late January, but had a less than ideal voyage in Hallandale Beach. The son of Arch comes into the Oaklawn Handicap fresh and has races back to in his 3-year-old campaign that make him competitive in this spot. Hopefully Kendrick Carmouche can avoid getting caught up in an early tussle for a trainer that has won with 38% of his starters in 2020.
Fading #14 Improbable in horizontal wagers has been a profitable strategy over the last 13 1/2 months, but the Bob Baffert runner put forth a huge effort over this racetrack in the Oaklawn Mile. The City Zip colt was run down late by Tom’s d’Etat, but lost nothing in defeat. The outside post and the 9-furlong distance are not ideal, but if he takes a step forward off of that 2020 debut he will be there at the wire.
Race 13: Arkansas Derby (Division 2)
#5 Nadal has not run as fast as his stablemate Charlatan, but he has shown the ability to get in a battle and come out on top. The son of Blame shipped into Arkansas for the Rebel (G2) on Mar. 15 and took on all comers from his inside post and still hit the wire first. The $700,000 2-year-old purchase enters the second division of the Arkansas Derby a perfect 3-for-3 and will be tough to beat if he can avoid getting caught up in a speed duel.
If they go fast up front, #7 Silver Prospector is the likeliest to take advantage. The son of Declaration of War did not put forth his best effort over the slop in the Rebel, but has the right running style to take advantage of a hot pace. If jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. can navigate a trip, similar to his winning effort in the Southwest (G3), the Steve Asmussen-trained colt can spring the upset.
The 2020 Oaklawn Park meeting concludes with a starter allowance event at 1 3/4 miles. #5 Carlos Sixes is a deserving lukewarm favorite in the finale. The son of Quality Road should make the lead in a race void of early zip. The 6-year-old gelding has shown an affinity for this racetrack and enters this spot in the best form of his career.
#1 Dangerfield is also in within a significant chance. The Into Mischief gelding has not yet proven he can get the marathon distance, but has tactical speed and has hit the board in four straight at Oaklawn Park. I will use him as well.
7,11,12 with 1 with 2,11,14 with 5,7 with 1,5 = $18