By Tom Quigley
$500,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) – Division 2 at Oaklawn Park
Race 13 (Saturday, May 2, 2020: 7:43 p.m./ET; 4:43 p.m./PT)
One mile and an eighth on the main track (three-year-olds)
The second division of the Arkansas Derby (G1) features the second half of the Bob Baffert talented tag team, #5 NADAL, while nine other runners will try to play spoiler. Let’s introduce you to the field:
#1 FINNICK THE FIERCE was last seen unofficially finishing second to Arkansas Derby Division 1 candidate WINNING IMPRESSION in an allowance race over a wet track, but was subsequently promoted to first after a lengthy steward’s inquiry. His only in-the-money finish in three previous graded stakes tries came in the form of a runner up effort behind #7 SILVER PROSPECTOR in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) over a sloppy track at Churchill. His fastest races have come over wet ground, but the Saturday weather forecast calls for a fast track.
#2 SARATOGIAN broke his maiden at Tampa Bay Downs to kick off his career but returned in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park and finished 13 lengths behind the winner at 58/1. Expect him to go off at a big price again.
#3 STORM THE COURT finished a respectable third behind AUTHENTIC and HONOR A.P. in his most recent start in the San Felipe (G2) on March 7. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) champ makes his third start off a brief freshening and retains the services of top Southern California jockey Flavien Prat.
#4 KING GUILLERMO tried routing on dirt for the first time in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and pulled off a 49/1 upset victory while earning a 99 Beyer Speed Figure in his first start as a three-year-old. He also ran third behind SOLO VOLANTE in the Pulpit Stakes two starts ago, who came back to win the Sam F. Davis (G3). Has reportedly been working great, so maybe he’s improving with age and getting good at the right time?
#5 NADAL is an undefeated son of BLAME that looks to extend his unbeaten streak to four. Bob Baffert trained colt, purchased for $700,000 as a two-year-old in training, routed for the first time in the Rebel (G2) and dueled at a fast clip before repelling all challengers in an eye-popping effort. The one to beat.
#6 CODE RUNNER won an allowance race at Sam Houston for trainer Steve Asmussen in March and takes a bump up in class against these graded stakes types. Speed figures indicate he needs to pick up the pace significantly and from a class perspective, he’s up against it.
#7 SILVER PROSPECTOR won the Southwest (G3) over a fast track, then returned over a sloppy surface to run poorly in the Rebel (G2). Nevertheless, his Southwest (G3) effort is certainly good enough to run well at this level and if you can be forgiving of his most recent afternoon appearance, he’s worthy of a second look.
#8 FAST ENOUGH will scratch.
#9 TAISHAN wheels back in three weeks after a third-place finish in the Oaklawn Stakes behind MR. BIG NEWS and #10 FARMINGTON ROAD, where he regressed off a big effort two starts back. On both afternoons, the track was sloppy. Additionally, both career wins have come when he is very close to the pace and he won’t get an easy lead with #11 WELLS BAYOU and #5 NADAL both projected to gun towards the front.
#10 FARMINGTON ROAD was a better than looked fourth behind well regarded three-year-old MR. MONOMOY and Grade 3 winner ENFORECEABLE before his second-place finish in the Oaklawn Stakes three weeks ago. He figures to get a decent pace to chase, which is a positive given he has sat well off the pace and made one run in his last couple of starts. Has improved with time and distance, too, and all of these positives indicates that he is one to at keep an eye on. #11 WELLS BAYOU went gate to wire in the Louisiana Derby (G2) at the Fair Grounds while being able to cruise on an easy lead and with #5 NADAL entered here, there will be none of that this time. Two starts ago, he went to the front and finished second behind #7 SILVER PROSPECTOR. Can he stalk? And even if he does, is he fast enough to defeat #5 NADAL with this poor post position? These are questions that need answering.
1. #5 NADAL - May prove too tough for this group.
2. #7 SILVER PROSPECTOR - Will give him another shot.
3. #4 KING GUILLERMO – Rapidly improving.
LONGSHOT VALUE PLAY-#3 STORM THE COURT - Last run was better than looked.
I’ll key my top pick over five others in trifectas in addition to an exacta box with my top two selections.
BANKROLL PLAY ($50 Budget)
$1 Trifecta: #5 NADAL over #3 STORM THE COURT and #4 KING GUILLERMO and #7 SILVER PROSPECTOR and #10 FARMINGTON ROAD and #11 WELLS BAYOU ($20).
$15 Exacta Box: #5 NADAL and #7 SILVER PROSPECTOR ($30).
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