Arkansas Derby Betting: Arkansas Derby Set for 2 Divisions, Each with 11-Horse Fields By Richard Rosenblatt
When it doubt, split divisions work – even though it took a re-draw to get it right.
The Arkansas Derby received 22 entries Sunday, eight more than the maximum field of 14 for 1 1/8-mile race to be run on the first Saturday in May. (That’s the usual date of the Kentucky Derby (G1), but the Derby has been rescheduled for Sept. 5 in response to the coronavirus pandemic).
Traditionally a key final prep race on the road to the Kentucky Derby, the Arkansas Derby takes on a different significance this time around. It’s the last “official” Derby-points qualifier, although Churchill Downs said it plans to designate additional races as qualifiers at an appropriate time.
The increased interest in the race is due to several other prep races being postponed or canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions, among them the Santa Anita Derby (G1), Wood Memorial (G2), and Blue Grass Stakes (G2). The most recent prep offering Derby points was the Florida Derby (G1), won by Tiz the Law (the points leader with 122) on March 28.
Each division will have a $500,000 purse (the original purse was $1 million), with Derby qualifying-points of 100-40-20-10 awarded to the first four finishers in each, as per Churchill Downs approval.
The biggest beneficiary of split divisions is Charlatan (2-for-2), one of trainer Bob Baffert’s unbeaten colts who would not have qualified for a 14-horse field based on earnings. Baffert’s Rebel Stakes (G2) winner Nadal (3-for-3) is also entered.
Charlatan drew the No. 1 post position in the first division, while Nadal drew the No. 5 post in the second division.
Each division has several 3-year-olds already qualified for the Kentucky Derby, and trainers with two or more horses in the field have chances in each division. The first draw wound up with two horses with the same ownership group in the same division, forcing officials to redraw the race.
After a delay of several hours, the fields are now determined, listed by post position, horse, trainer, jockey):
|1||Charlatan||Bob Baffert||Martin Garcia|
|2||My Friends Beer||Jeremiah O’Dwyer||Declan Cannon|
|3||Mo Mosa||Mike Maker||Kendrick Carmouche|
|4||Gouverneur Morris||Todd Pletcher||John Velazquez|
|5||Jungle Runner||Steve Asmussen||Tyler Baze|
|6||Shooters Shoot||Peter Eurton||Joe Talamo|
|7||Wrecking Crew||Peter Miller||Flavien Prat|
|8||Anneau d’Or||Blaine Wright||Juan Hernandez|
|9||Winning Impression||Dallas Stewart||Julien Leparoux|
|10||Crypto Cash||Kenny McPeek||Corey Lanerie|
|11||Basin||Steve Asmussen||Ricardo Santana, Jr.|
|1||Finnick the Fierce||Rey Hernandez||Martin Garcia|
|2||Saratogian||Rodolphe Brisset||Joe Talamo|
|3||Storm the Court||Peter Eurton||Flavien Prat|
|4||King Guillermo||Juan Carlos Avila||Samuel Camacho, Jr.|
|5||Nadal||Bob Baffert||Joel Rosario|
|6||Code Runner||Steve Asmussen||Stewart Elliott|
|7||Silver Prospector||Steve Asmussen||Ricardo Santana, Jr.|
|8||Fast Enough||Rafael Becerra||Tyler Baze|
|9||Taishan||Richard Baltas||David Cohen|
|10||Farmington Road||Todd Pletcher||Javier Castellano|
|11||Wells Bayou||Brad Cox||Florent Geroux|
Morning-line odds were not posted Sunday, but look for Charlatan (2-for-2) to be the favorite in the first division even though the colt will be running in his first stakes race. The second division looks to be the tougher of the two, with Nadal (the likely favorite), Louisiana Derby (G2) Wells Bayou, Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner King Guillermo, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner (G1) Storm the Court, and Southwest Stakes (G3) winner Silver Prospector.
Earlier in the Derby prep season, the Risen Star (G2) at the Fair Grounds had split divisions. The last time the Arkansas Derby was split into two divisions was 1960.
Just before Oaklawn officials announced it would run two divisions, Churchill Downs president Kevin Flanery tweeted: “While we are always respectful of the time-honored traditions of the Kentucky Derby, we’re in the midst of an unprecedented year.
We recognize that there are numerous 3-year-olds currently in training with limited racing opportunities, and our prominent partner Oaklawn Park is in a unique and important position to immediately fill a void for horsemen.”
Continuing, Flanery addressed extending the road to the Derby.
“An extension of the Road to the Kentucky Derby will continue to evolve in the weeks ahead. Our Churchill Downs team is united in our commitment to holding the very best Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5, and it will certainly be one of the most memorable of our lifetimes.”
Oaklawn president Louis Cella also issued a statement:
“Because of our national crisis, we and the entire world of sports are in uncharted waters requiring unprecedented actions. We’re trying to make the best of a very, very difficult situation. On the one hand, it is the worst of times to be racing without fans in our grandstand. On the other, we have a large number of exceptional three-year-olds wanting to run in our Arkansas Derby. We simply did not want to see anyone lose that opportunity.”
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Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.