04/17/2011 11:56AM

Kentucky Derby finally a reality for Jinks Fires, thanks to Archarcharch

Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography
After 50 years as a trainer, Jinks Fires finally has his first Kentucky Derby horse following Ararcharch's upset in the Arklansas Derby.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark.- Archarcharch emerged from his Arkansas Derby win in excellent shape, his trainer, Jinks Fires, said the morning after the race, and on Monday night plans are to ship Archarcharch to Churchill Downs to begin preparations for the Kentucky Derby.

“If they don’t block the road we’ll be there,” said Fires, a trainer for 50 years who at the age 70 will have his first starter in the Kentucky Derby.

“I always wanted to go there with a horse I thought had a shot. And we do think we have a shot.”

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Archarcharch was a glowing picture of health Sunday morning. He ran well throughout Oaklawn’s series for 3-year-olds, winning the Grade 3, $250,000 Southwest Stakes in February, running third in the Grade 2, $300,000 Rebel in March, and closing fast to win the Arkansas Derby.

“He showed us what we believed in all along, that he was that kind of horse,” Fires said of winning the Arkansas Derby. “We’ve all believed in him right along. He hasn’t let us down.”

Archarcharch races for Bob and Val Yagos, an Arkansas-based couple who have had more than one seven-figure offer for the horse. At one point, there was a contract in place to sell him to overseas interests, but when a deadline was missed by the potential purchaser, the couple decided to go ahead and keep Archarcharch and see how he developed this spring. The Arkansas Derby gave them their biggest win in racing.

It was also the first Grade 1 victory for Fires, who is part of a noted racing family. Following the win on Saturday night, Fires received calls from such Kentucky Derby-winning trainers as Jack Van Berg, John Servis , and Chip Woolley.

Nehro ran second by a neck in the Arkansas Derby, one start after finishing second by a neck in the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby.

“I was very pleased with the race that he ran,” said Steve Asmussen, who trains Nehro. I’m hoping it’s fixing to be his turn.”

Asmussen said Nehro is likely to run back in the Kentucky Derby, but he must first discuss a course of action with owner Zayat Stables. Nehro is to fly Tuesday morning to Churchill. 

Oaklawn handled $11,414,505 on its 12-race card from all sources Saturday, which was up from $9.6 million a year ago on Arkansas Derby Day. Attendance ontrack was 62,364, edging last year’s crowd of 61,531.