Muth Excels in Arkansas Derby; Ineligible for Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby (G1) picture came clearly into focus in the span of little over an hour on Saturday afternoon. It was the equivalent of going from analog to Hi-Def … it’s now crystal clear.

Just Steel, Mystik Dan, and Timberlake run 2-3-4, all likely Derby-bound


It started with the Florida Derby (G1) where Fierceness crushed the competition and stamped himself the clear-cut Derby favorite. Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner and divisional champion will be the one to beat in the Derby. No doubt about it.

The focus then shifted to Oaklawn Park and the Arkansas Derby (G1) to see who might challenge Fierceness in five weeks in Louisville. The $1.5 million Arkansas Derby offered a record purse for the race and a competitive 10-horse field. What it didn’t have was a Kentucky Derby impact.

Muth, the 2-1 second choice, was the decisive winner but on Kentucky Derby Day, you won’t find him in the Run for the Roses.

Bob Baffert, his Hall of Fame trainer, remains a pariah at Churchill Downs. He, and his horses, are banned from the track in the aftermath of Medina Spirit’s disqualification from the 2021 Derby for a medication violation.

Preakness Prospects: Muth’s Path Beyond the Arkansas Derby Victory

Muth’s next logical spot is the Preakness (G1) on May 18 at Pimlico. We might have to wait until then to see Muth tackle Fierceness, the last horse to defeat him.

His absence certainly diminishes the Kentucky Derby. A $2 million purchase last year by Zedan Racing, Muth has lived up to the fancy price tag. The victory was his fourth in six starts and gave him a second Grade 1 victory to accompany the win in the American Pharoah. That race was his springboard into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile where he ran second, 6 1/4 lengths behind Fierceness.

A Kentucky Derby rematch of those two would have produced high drama, but it is not to be.

Muth gave Baffert his fifth Arkansas Derby win.

Prominent from the start, Muth and jockey Juan Hernandez let Time for Truth dictate the initial fraction while Timberlake, the Rebel Stakes (G2) winner and even-money favorite, snugged on the rail sitting third.

Early on the backstretch run, Flavien Prat aboard Timberlake decided to force the issue. They angled around Time for Truth and slipped inside Muth to strike the front.

There it was: the mano-a-mano battle between the betting favorites. Stride for stride they continued down the backstretch and around the second turn. Approaching the stretch Muth forged a short lead and Timberlake stunningly surrendered.

Only Just Steel, a 32-1 outsider trained by D. Wayne Lukas, took up the chase. It was no match in the lane.

Recap of Muth’s Victory and Kentucky Derby Points Distribution

Muth rolled to a two-length victory but earned no Kentucky Derby qualifying points. Just Steel earned 50 points for second, and you can bet your bottom dollar the irrepressible Lukas, still craving the Derby stage at a vibrant 88 years young, will have him ready to roll on Derby Day.

Mystik Dan was third.

Timberlake faded to fourth, ending trainer Brad Cox’s streak of consecutive Arkansas Derby wins.

Informed Patriot was fifth followed by Time for Truth, Imperial Gun, Liberal Arts, Will Take It and Dimatic.

Muth paid $6.60, $5 and $3.80. Just Steel returned $16.20 and $6.80. Mystik Dan paid $3.60 to show.

The time was 1:49.54 on the fast track for the 1 1/8 miles.


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