By Emily Shields
The Arkansas Derby (G1) has been split by officials at Oaklawn Park, which makes the 1 1/8 race worth $500,000 per division. Charlatan, considered by many to be the best sophomore in the country, was on the outside looking in with no stakes earnings of his own until the race split. He has drawn post one in the first division, which goes as Race 11.
Charlatan (even) is unbeaten in two starts for trainer Bob Baffert. The son of Speightstown will now have to answer the question of distance; his allowance win on March 14 was over a mile. He worked a bullet six furlongs at Santa Anita on April 26 to prepare for this. Martin Garcia will have the call.
Gouverneur Morris is 9-2 on tnhe morning line but has more experience. Grade 1 placed as a juvenile, he returned with an allowance win at Tampa Bay Downs on February 14. The Todd Pletcher trainee was fourth in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, beaten just five lengths. Anneau d’Or was second by a head in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) but then ran ninth in his 2020 debut in the Risen Star (G2). The Blaine Wright trainee will have blinkers off. Basin was a Grade 1 winner at Saratoga in September and has been third and fourth in two 2020 starts for Steve Asmussen.
The second division goes as Race 13. Baffert has the favorite here too with unbeaten Nadal. The $700,000 son of Blame was the winner of the Rebel (G2) here in a gritty performance after winning the San Vicente (G2) at Santa Anita in February. Joel Rosario has the call. Tampa Bay Derby winner King Guillermo is the main challenger; the son of Uncle Mo took that race by nearly five lengths. Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Wells Bayou (7-2) drew outside the field of 11 for trainer Brad Cox. The son of Lookin At Lucky is three for five lifetime.
Sandwiched between the two divisions of the Arkansas Derby is the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older males. Millionaires Bravazo, Mr Freeze, Combatant, Tacitus, as well as near millionaires Improbable, By My Standards, and Tax, head a very deep and competitive field.
The Arkansas Derby was meant to be run earlier in April, but is now May 2, which should have been the date of the 2020 Kentucky Derby. TVG will have extensive coverage of Oaklawn’s 14-race Saturday card.
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