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Arkansas Derby: Scramble for points lures horses from coast to coast
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – The scramble for Kentucky Derby eligibility points has brought an eclectic mix of 3-year-olds to Oaklawn Park for the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby on Saturday. The field of 10 includes horses who last raced at Aqueduct, Gulfstream, Santa Anita, Tampa Bay Downs, and Turfway Park.
Overanalyze is the most accomplished member of the group as the winner of the Grade 2 Remsen last November. Oxbow, Falling Sky, and Den’s Legacy are all Grade 3 winners. War Academy is the “buzz” horse off an allowance win at Santa Anita for which he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 99.
“We’ll know after the race, but it looks very competitive,” said Bob Baffert, the trainer of Den’s Legacy and War Academy.
The Arkansas Derby has 170 points for the taking, with 100 to the winner on a new system governing Kentucky Derby preference if the race is oversubscribed. Saturday’s runner-up will earn 40 points, third is worth 20, and fourth, 10. The Arkansas Derby anchors a 12-race, closing-day card of four stakes that features an appearance by Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned in the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap.
Overanalyze has 10 points to rank 26th on the latest Kentucky Derby preference list. He earned them for winning the Remsen, run at the same 1 1/8-mile distance as the Arkansas Derby. Overanalyze fought for a nose win in the Remsen over eventual Wood Memorial runner-up Normandy Invasion. Two races earlier, he had won the Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont Park. The Arkansas Derby will be his second start of the year, following a fifth-place finish in the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct on March 2.
“We feel like with a race under his belt he’s ready to move forward,” trainer Todd Pletcher said.
“Based on his 2-year-old form, winning the Remsen and Futurity, he has the quality needed to make that move forward as a 3-year-old.”
Overanalyze is one of four Arkansas Derby starters on Daily Racing Form ’s Derby Watch, along with Den’s Legacy, Oxbow, and War Academy. He will break from post 9 under Rafael Bejarano and could get a tracking trip behind Falling Sky, Divine Ambition, and perhaps War Academy.
“I think he’s pretty adaptable to any pace scenario,” Pletcher said. “He won the Remsen stalking, he won the Futurity from well off the pace, and going five-eighths in his first start, he won wire to wire.”
Oxbow, whose 36 points ranks 13th for the Kentucky Derby, also could get a tracking trip Saturday. He will break from post 10 for his third race in a row, but the draw is not as severe this time as there is a longer run to the first turn than he had when he finished second by a head to stablemate Will Take Charge in the Grade 2, $600,000 Rebel at Oaklawn in his last start March 16.
“Post position is not as important in the Arkansas Derby at a mile and an eighth as it was in the Rebel at a mile and a sixteenth,” trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. “Another sixteenth of a mile, I think that it helps us.”
Gary Stevens, who teamed with Lukas to win the Kentucky Derby in 1988 (Winning Colors) and 1995 (Thunder Gulch), has the mount on Oxbow. The horse will be making his first start beyond 1 1/16 miles Saturday.
“I have no concerns,” Lukas said. “I don’t think it makes any difference to him if he runs the length of a corncob or two miles. He’ll be tough.”
Den’s Legacy, who has 20 points to rank 18th, is similar to Oxbow in that he has a series of close finishes in recent graded stakes. Den’s Legacy has fired competitive races against Violence, Goldencents, Flashback, and Will Take Charge.
“Den’s Legacy, he’s been right there every time,” Baffert said. “He’s never run a bad race. He tries hard. He’s very tough.”
Baffert also likes how Den’s Legacy has trained for the Arkansas Derby, which will be his second start at the Oaklawn meet following a third-place finish in the Rebel.
“He was fighting on at the end last time,” Baffert said. “He’s coming into this race really sharp. He’s looked really good training.”
Robby Albarado has the mount on Den’s Legacy, while Mike Smith will be in to ride War Academy. Smith was aboard War Academy last out, when the horse went after a loose-on-the-lead rival to win a first-level allowance by 3 1/2 lengths in his third career start March 15.
“He ran a great race,” Baffert said. “The way he did it, he just laid off the pace a little bit. He’s doing well. He’s shipping and running, and we’re going to find out a lot about him.”
Given the horse’s inexperience, Baffert was somewhat surprised War Academy was made the 2-1 morning-line favorite for the Arkansas Derby. Baffert won the Arkansas Derby last year with another lightly raced colt.
“I think they’re looking for a Bodemeister again, and I hope they’re right,” Baffert said.
Falling Sky “got pressed the whole way last time by a very talented horse, never really got a breather,” trainer John Terranova said. “It was only his second route race, and he came out of it very well. It looks like he’s going forward at this point.”
Texas Bling, with 9 points, won the $300,000 Springboard Mile at Remington Park last December at 128-1. He backed the effort up at Oaklawn in January, by running second by a neck in the $150,000 Smarty Jones won by Will Take Charge. Texas Bling enters the Arkansas Derby off a fourth-place finish in the Rebel.
“He’s maturing more into a classic-distance type horse, so I expect him to be coming from off the pace,” trainer Danele Durham said. “I’m looking for a big close from him.”
Calvin Borel, a three-time winner of the Kentucky Derby, will ride Texas Bling.
The Arkansas Derby will be televised live on the NBC Sports Network from 5-6 p.m. Central. HRTV also will be onsite. First post is 12 p.m. Central, with Oaklawn to open its infield for a crowd that could top 60,000.
Better watch out for texas bling, this horse is going to run huge
I've got to admit that Oxbow is an interesting horse. I've never really liked him, but he keeps outrunning my expectations. Ignoring his two synthetic races, he has run a bit faster in each of his races. The older he gets and the farther he runs, the faster he goes. I may have to play him.
Can DRF compare earnings to points and see which horses would have made it in under the old system and which wouldnt have but did under the new system?
Do not forget Atigun at The Oaklawn H. Saturday at Oaklawn. In The Breeders Cup Marathon at a mile and three quarters Mike Smith was winning the race. Atigun was the only three year old against older horses. According to the result chart Atigun was the lead horse by a length at the mile and a quarter, mile and a half, and at the stretch. Calidoscopio (Arg) got him in the stretch and beat Grassy by four and a quarter lengths becoming the oldest horse at nine years old to win a Breeders Cup. Grassy beat Atigun by half a length. This was all done between the stretch and finish line. Santa Anita has a relatively short stretch of 999 feet. I think Fort Larned and Atigun in my opinion are the real threat. Atigun is a distance horse and as Mike Welsh had said a day before the race how astounded he was with the size of Atigun as a three year old. It was like looking at an older horse. That is the race I want to bet on!
this will get yall talking how about carve to upset them all whoo hoo
Den"s Legacy reminds me alot like Normandy Invasion. They both show up and are right there at the wire and show they are peaking at the right time as 3yo"s. After reading more about Baffert, well thats all I"ll say, I hope his horses dont show up and the end this Arkansas Derby but DensLegacy is the horse IMO to beat. I wish War Academy a safe trip and hope he gets home sick and doesnt run well, leaving Baffert scratching his head. As for my pic, Overanalyse and team Pletcher for Repole, now he deserves a ticket to the DERBY....
What is wrong with all you people tgat think War Academy will be on the lead, or will be challenged by other speed. Why dont you just try watching his last race.
My GUESS (if i knew who would win, I would be rich) ----- 1 of the following 4 horses will win: either WAR ACADEMY, FALLING SKY, OXBOW or DEN'S LEGACY ----- my guess would be War Academy winning it on the front end with Falling Sky dueling but fading to finish 4th past near the wire by Oxbow, followed in 3rd by Den's Legacy ..
Why is nobody talking about Den's Legacy? He will circle this field and destroy by 5-7 lengths. wake up people and open up your eyes. Trust me. Baffert will win this year's derby after running second last year.
Why is nobody talking about Den's Legacy? He will circle this field and destroy by 5-7 lengths. wake up people and open up your eyes. Trust me. Baffert will win the derby after running second last year.