By Tom Quigley
$500,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) – Division 1 at Oaklawn Park
Race 11 (Saturday, May 2, 2020: 6:29 p.m./ET; 3:29 p.m./PT)
One mile and an eighth on the main track (three-year-olds)
With a whopping 22 entrants entering last Sunday morning, Oaklawn Park racing officials opted to split this Grade 1 event into two divisions. This race (Division 1) features the stakes debut of a potential superstar, #1 CHARLATAN, while graded stakes winner #11 BASIN and graded placed colts #4 GOUVERNEUR MORRIS and #8 ANNEAU D’OR take him on to possibly hand the son of SPEIGHTSTOWN his first career loss. We’ll begin our analysis with the rail post position:
#1 CHARLATAN has been brilliant in two lifetime starts for trainer Bob Baffert. After breaking his maiden and earning a 105 Beyer Speed Figure sprinting, he dusted a small group of allowance foes traveling two turns while earning a 106 Beyer. Ultra-talented dude will go off at a short price.
#2 MY FRIENDS BEER was no match for the top two finishers when finishing third in an allowance over the local Oaklawn strip on April 11. His only career victory in eight lifetime starts came against maiden claimers. Next.
#3 MO MOSA is another who was last seen running third in an allowance race over this track. That day, he went off at 52/1 and although he finished a distant third, he was almost a half dozen lengths behind the winner. Massive improvement is needed.
#4 GOUVERNEUR MORRIS has always been well regarded. After a fantastic maiden win at Saratoga to kick off his career, the Todd Pletcher trainee ran second in the Breeders Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. He was given four months off before his next start, a victory against allowance company at Tampa Bay Downs, and he most recently ran fourth in the Florida Derby (G1) behind top three-year-old TIZ THE LAW. Main contender.
#5 JUNGLE RUNNER removes blinkers after wearing them in an abysmal performance in the Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland Park in February. Problem is, this colt has finished double digit lengths behind the winner in his last three races, all against easier company, and will need complete form reversal to be competitive.
#6 SHOOTERS SHOOT came down with a fever earlier in the week and will be scratched.
#7 WRECKING CREW has run very poorly in his last two starts. And although he ran a decent third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) last fall, the form of that race has come back to be far from stellar and the runner up finisher that day (#8 ANNEAU D’OR) is also entered back in this race. Looking elsewhere.
#8 ANNEAU D’OR ran a very respectable second (beaten a head) in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) last November. He returned to prove that run was no fluke, losing by a neck to THOUSAND WORDS in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2), then took a three-month break for his three-year-old debut, the Risen Star (G2), where he went off at even money and lost by 12 lengths in a disappointing effort while adding blinkers (which he takes off today). Mixed feelings.
#9 WINNING IMPRESSION has run his best races over sloppy surfaces, but the weather forecast for Saturday indicates rain is highly unlikely. He didn’t run poorly two starts ago over a dry track, when he finished third in an allowance event at the Fair Grounds. We’ve seen trainer Dallas Stewart pop with big priced horses in Grade 1’s before (remember SEEKING THE SOUL and COMMANDING CURVE hitting the board in the Kentucky Derby?) so an exotics placing may not be out of the question.
#10 CRYPTO CASH makes his second start off a three-and-a-half-month layoff for trainer Ken McPeek, who hits at 14% with his entrants making their start off such a vacation. His lone career win on dirt came over the summer at Ellis Park.
#11 BASIN was precocious as a two-year-old, breaking his maiden like a good thing at Saratoga, then returned one month layer to win the Hopeful (G1). A minor setback forced this colt to the sidelines, and he returned six months later to run third in the Rebel (G2) behind NADAL. His most recent effort, a fourth-place finish in the Oaklawn Stakes against easier company, was subpar.
1. #1 CHARLATAN - The real deal?
2. #4 GOUVERNOR MORRIS - One of the classier horses in the field.
3. #11 BASIN - Best of the rest.
LONGSHOT VALUE PLAY-#9 WINNING IMPRESSION - Dallas Stewart can connect with longshots.
I’ll key my top pick over my other three selections and #8 ANNEAU D’OR in trifectas. I still have $2 to play with, so I’ll bet that to show on my longshot selection in case my top pick finishes off the board in a minus show pool situation.
BANKROLL PLAY ($50 Budget)
$4 Trifecta: #1 CHARLATAN over #4 GOUVERNOR MORRIS and #8 ANNEAU D’OR and #9 WINNING IMPRESSION and #11 BASIN ($48).
$2 Show: #9 WINNING IMPRESSION
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