The $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park is the final major points-qualifier for the $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1). A field of six has been entered for the 1 1/8-mile race that offers qualifying points of 100-40-20-10 the first four finishers. usracing.com is publishing profiles on the contenders in the days leading up to the race.
By Lynne Snierson
At first glance, Last Samurai looks to be spotted rather ambitiously. After all, his only win and only time hitting the board was in a maiden special weight last year, he was fifth, 13 ½ lengths behind, in the Southwest Stakes (G3), and now he’s running in a Grade 1 with a $1 million purse and the chance to earn a guaranteed starting berth in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
At second glance, pay attention to who is doing the spotting. Dallas Stewart is a trainer well-known and well-regarded for getting his horses to outrun their odds. Seriously outrun. The Stewart-trained Lemons Forever won the Kentucky Oaks (G1) at 47-1, the biggest upset in race history, and Out for A Spin took the Ashland (G1) at 52-1. Don’t forget Golden Soul, the runner-up in the 2013 Kentucky Derby at 50-1, and Commanding Curve, second in the 2014 Derby at 37-1.
Whether Last Samurai, the longest shot in a six-horse field at 15-1, will be mentioned with those horses remains to be seen. Right now, he needs an Arkansas Derby win and its 100 points, or perhaps even a second-place finish and 40 points, to land in Louisville on the first Saturday in May because he has yet to earn a single mark on the board.
To his advantage, he gets a four-pound break in the weights at 118 pounds Saturday and that might come into play as these sophomores try 1 1/8 miles for the first time.
Post position: 6
Trainer: Dallas Stewart
Jockey: Jon Court
Owners: Willis Horton Racing
Derby qualifying points: 0
Career record: 4-1-0-0
Career earnings: $67,644
Best Equibase speed figure: 84
Pedigree: Malibu Moon-Lady Samuri, by First Samurai
Running style: Closer
Lynne Snierson, a former director of communications at Arlington Park and Rockingham Park, currently is a freelance writer and racing publicist. She covered thoroughbred racing as an award-winning sportswriter for newspapers In Boston, Miami, and St. Louis. She lives in New Hampshire. Secretariat remains her all-time favorite horse.