04/10/2013 1:25PM

Arkansas Derby: Falling Sky's top rivals draw far-outside posts

Lynn Roberts/Hodges Photography
Oxbow drew the far-outside No. 10 post for Saturday's Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park and was made a 5-2 choice on the morning line.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Falling Sky had the misfortune of hooking Verrazano last out in the Tampa Bay Derby, finishing third to the horse pegged as the current Kentucky Derby favorite after remaining undefeated last Saturday with his win in the Wood Memorial.

Perhaps it will be Falling Sky’s turn to shine this Saturday. He is part of a 10-horse field for the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby, which closes out the meet at Oaklawn Park. Falling Sky drew well in post 4 when entries were taken Wednesday. And his task might have been made a little easier when two of his main rivals, Overanalyze and Oxbow, were hung out wide in the 1 1/8-mile race by drawing gates 9 and 10.  Falling Sky is to be ridden by Martin Garcia.

“We’re looking forward to running,” trainer John Terranova said.

The Arkansas Derby headlines a blockbuster card that also features Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned in the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap. In all, there will be four stakes on a 12-race program that blasts off at noon Central. The Oaklawn Handicap goes as the eighth race at 4:14 p.m., while the Arkansas Derby is slated as the 10th at 5:28 p.m.

War Academy was made the 2-1 morning-line favorite after drawing post 2 for the Arkansas Derby, which offers its winner 100 points on the Kentucky Derby system governing preference for the May 4 classic. The horse was to arrive Wednesday afternoon from Santa Anita, where he won a recent allowance route with a Beyer Speed Figure of 99. Mike Smith has the mount for trainer Bob Baffert, the same team that won last year’s Arkansas Derby with Bodemeister.

[ARKANSAS DERBY: Get Oaklawn PPs, watch video previews]

Oxbow, installed as a 5-2 choice after getting post 10, was edged in the Grade 2, $600,000 Rebel in his last start March 16, a 1 1/16-mile race at Oaklawn in which he broke from post 10. Prior to that race, Oxbow was fourth in the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds, from the 10 hole. Gary Stevens has the mount for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Overanalyze, the winner of the Grade 2 Remsen last November, will break from post 9 under Rafael Bejaranao. Divine Ambition, the runner-up in the Rushaway Stakes at Turfway, was entered just before the draw and landed post 3. He is on the also-eligible list for the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass, which also will be run Saturday, at Keeneland.

The Arkansas Derby field from the rail out, with riders: Carve, Ricardo Santana Jr.; War Academy; Divine Ambition, Brian Hernandez Jr.; Falling Sky; Den’s Legacy, Robby Albarado; Heaven’s Runway, Israel Ocampo; Texas Bling, Calvin Borel; Frac Daddy, Victor Lebron; Overanalyze; Oxbow.

Falling Sky will be making his third start of the year in the Arkansas Derby. He won the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in his two-turn debut Feb. 2. Falling Sky then came back March 9 in the Tampa Bay Derby and, after breaking from post 9, dueled with Verrazano for much of the race before ending up third, seven lengths back.

“We were unlucky with the post,” Terranova said of the Tampa Bay Derby. “He’s got good speed. He broke well, and we were hoping there would be other speed and we would be able to sit off of them. Instead, he cleared very easy going into the first turn.”

But Verrazano was at Falling Sky’s flank by the time the field headed down the backside.

“He pulled that big boy around there the whole way,” Terranova said.

Falling Sky has since worked sharply, with Terranova particularly pleased with his 59.60-second drill at Churchill Downs last Sunday. The horse was a $425,000 purchase at auction in January, topping the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s winter mixed sale in Florida. He races for the Newton Anner Stud operation of Maurice and Samantha Regan, as well as James Covello and Joseph Bulger.

Terranova will be represented in the Blue Grass by West Hills Giant.

Fort Larned will break from post 9 in a field of 10 for the Oaklawn Handicap, and the draw sat well with his trainer, Ian Wilkes.

“It couldn’t be better,” said Wilkes, who has given the mount to Brian Hernandez Jr. “It gives Brian a lot of options. It doesn’t force our hand.”

Fort Larned breezed a half-mile in 51 seconds Wednesday at Oaklawn.

“Just an easy half,” said Wilkes. “We just let him stretch his legs, let him move down the lane and let him gallop out strong.”

Others set to start in the Oaklawn Handicap include Alternation, the defending champ, who will break from post 5, and Win Willy, the 2011 winner, who will break from post 8. Optimizer, a two-time Grade 3 winner on turf this winter at Fair Grounds, drew post 10.

Justin Phillip is the 119-pound starting highweight in the Grade 3, $250,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap, which drew a field of eight, including defending champ Outta Tune. The $100,000 Northern Spur for 3-year-olds at a mile includes the Terranova-trained Balance of Power.

The Arkansas Derby is to be televised live on NBC Sports as part of one-hour broadcast with the Blue Grass. HRTV will be onsite Saturday. The forecast is for partly cloudy skies and a high of 70 degrees. The infield will be open on an afternoon when attendance regularly exceeds 60,000.