Arkansas a Most Productive Route to Kentucky

Each year the $1.5 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park normally represents the end of yet another grueling Road to the Kentucky Derby (G1) journey through the Natural State, and as such it’s often one of the most anticipated Derby preps of them all, as well as one ate of the most productive prep races in producing both Derby runners and winners. American Pharoah used the Hot Springs route as a springboard to racing immortality in 2015 and this year a full field will line up to race the 1 1/8 miles over the Hot Springs, Arkansas, oval.

American Pharoah – Haskell Stakes

The final race offering 170 Road to the Derby points will be awarded to the top-five finishers (100-50-25-15-10), which in addition to guaranteeing a spot in the Derby gate for the winner, those who finish in the top four who have points already quite possibly could break the bubble from “out” to “in” on the list of 20.

This year once again the race sits just five weeks out from the first Saturday in May.

The Road to Kentucky Derby Glory: Southern Perspectives

Even though the Arkansas Derby has only produced six Kentucky Derby winners overall, three of which completed the Arkansas Derby-Kentucky Derby double, 81 Arkansas Derby runners have competed in the Run for the Roses since 1997 and 63 since 2004 alone. In addition to winners American Pharoah, Smarty Jones and Sunny’s Halo, other big-time names have taken the southern path to Triple Crown race success, including Elocutionist, Temperence Hill, Tank’s Prospect, Pine Bluff, Lil E. Tee, Victory Gallop, Afleet Alex, Super Saver and Creator, not to mention a half-dozen other classic-placed runners in the more recent history of the race.

American Pharoah stands out at the most significant runner to have made his way to Louisville through Arkansas, taking Oaklawn Park’s signature race. The Bob Baffert-trained colt, as we all know, went on to become the 12th Triple Crown winner six years ago and the first since Affirmed in 1978, quenching a 37-year drought without one.

Kentucky Derby Ups and Downs: Disqualifications, Withdrawals, and Comebacks

Country House was third in 2019 before going on to claim the controversial Kentucky Derby victory after the disqualification of Maximum Security from the win and ended his career wearing the blanket of roses. Fox Hill Farm’s Omaha Beach won this nine-furlong event that year and was labeled the Kentucky Derby favorite after the draw but was withdrawn two days before the race due to an entrapped epiglottis. The Baffert-trained Charlatan was the victor of one division in 2020, but a post-race test revealed the prohibited medication Lidocaine in his system, so he was eventually disqualified and his win was forfeited to the runner-up, Basin, who didn’t end up making the Derby gate. Nadal, also trained by Baffert, won the other division in 2020. A year ago Angel of Empire emerged the Arkansas Derby victor and was third in the Kentucky Derby and after a long break last year has returned to the work tab in preparation for his comeback.

Memorable Arkansas Derby Moments: Trainer Triumphs and Speed Records

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher is the leading trainer in number of wins, having sent out five winners (2000, Graeme Hall; 2001, Balto Star; 2013, Overanalyze; 2014, Danza; and 2018, Magnum Moon.) Retired Hall of Famer Pat Day won three throughout his illustrious career (1986, Rampage; 1987, Demons Begone; and 1997, Crypto Star.)

The D. Wayne Lukas-trained mare Althea defeated males in 1984 in a final time of 1:46.80, which remains the fastest Arkansas Derby in its 77-year history.

The weather for the Hot Springs area on Saturday is expected to partly cloudy and warm with the expected high will reach into the mid-70s.

eThis year’s Arkansas Derby is the day’s 12th race and has an expected post time of 6:47 p.m. CT.



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