04/16/2011 9:01PM

Arkansas Derby: Archarcharch holds off Nehro in upset; The Factor finishes seventh

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Archarcharch holds off Nehro to win the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – After turning down more than one seven-figure offer for Archarcharch, the conviction owner Bob Yagos and his wife, Val, showed paid the best kind of dividend Saturday. The horse they kept will be taking them to the Kentucky Derby.

Archarcharch ($52.40) won the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby by a neck Saturday, when he held off a stretch bid from Nehro. The Factor, who was the 4-5 favorite, finished seventh, and immediately following the race, trainer Bob Baffert said it appeared the horse displaced his palate.

Saturday was closing day of the meet at Oaklawn Park, and ideal weather conditions helped the track draw a crowd of 62,364.

Archarcharch raced in 10th in the early stages of the Arkansas Derby as J P’s Gusto jumped out to a clear lead and was up by two lengths through an opening quarter in 22.54 seconds and the first half-mile in 46.53. Dance City pushed the pace along as The Factor was not far behind in third. Archarcharch advanced four wide around the final turn under regular rider Jon Court, gained ground on the leaders in the stretch, and then held off a fast-closing Nehro. Archarcharch covered the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.34.

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“I have a lot of belief in this horse,” said Jinks Fires, who trains Archarcharch. “He’s done everything right from the beginning.”

Archarcharch, who won his maiden in the Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds, will leave Monday for Churchill Downs, Yagos said. Yagos and his wife are Arkansas residents who operate a small stable and earlier in the meet made the decision together not to sell Archarchach, the Southwest Stakes winner in February who they purchased at auction as a yearling at Keeneland for $60,000.

“We’re looking good now,” a delighted Bob Yagos said immediately following the race Saturday.

The Factor was a strong favorite off his Grade 2, $300,000 Rebel win last month at Oaklawn, when he defeated Archarcharch. He had set the pace in his three wins leading up to the Arkansas Derby but did not make the lead Saturday under regular rider Martin Garcia.

“When they sent hard and then they squeezed him down on the rail [Martin] had to grab him,” Baffert said. “I think he displaced. They’ll displace if you grab them too hard. So he came back, and all the sudden you could hear him, the breathing, gurgling up.”

Baffert made no commitments with regard to the Kentucky Derby.

“We’re just going to see how he’s doing,” he said. “I’m going to see how he is. I’m upset that he didn’t get a chance [to run his race]. I’m just going to go back and lick our wounds, and we’ll be alright. There’s other things down the road.”

Archarcharch earned $600,000 for his win in the Arkansas Derby, which was his third from six career starts. It was the second straight win in the race for Court, Fires’s son-in-law who took last year’s Arkansas Derby on the front end with Line of David.

Dance City in third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Nehro. Sway Away finished fourth, followed by Alternation, J W Blue, The Factor, J P’s Gusto, Elite Alex, Saratoga Red, Brethren, Caleb’s Posse, and Truman’s Commander.