By Margaret Ransom
Each year the Arkansas Derby represents the end of yet another grueling Triple Crown Trail. Usually held three weeks before the Kentucky Derby (G1), the nine-furlong test has had a significant impact on the Run For the Roses since first contested in 1936 but moved up in stature in 2004 when the much-beloved Smarty Jones stormed through Hot Springs before winning both the Derby and the Preakness Stakes (G1).
And while this year the race’s scenario is decidedly different thanks to the postponement of the actual Run for the Roses due to the global Covid-19 pandemic to September 5, causing Oaklawn Park to push this race back to what would have been the actual day of the Kentucky Derby, racing fans will be treated to not only one Arkansas Derby, but two.
Due to the high number of entries, 11 will go postward in each division, with both offering Road the Derby points to the top-four finishers on a 100-40-20-10 schedule.
The last time the Arkansas Derby was split was in 1960; Spring Broker won the first division and Persian Gold won the second division. Neither started in that year’s Kentucky Derby, but both played a significant part in the history of the race especially relating to this year’s split event.
Even though the Arkansas Derby has only produced four Kentucky Derby winners overall, 69 Arkansas Derby runners made the Run for the Roses since 1997 and 51 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 since Affirmed in 1978 and quench a 37-year drought in the industry without one.
Country House was third here a year ago before going on to claim the controversial Kentucky Derby victory after the disqualification of Maximum Security from the win.
Fox Hill Farm’s Omaha Beach won this nine-furlong event and was labeled the Kentucky Derby’s favorite after the draw, but withdrawn two days before the race due to an entrapped epiglottis.
The weather for the Hot Springs area on Saturday is expected to be seasonal and very warm, but dry, with highs reaching into the lower 80s.
Todd Pletcher is the leading trainer in number of victories, 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 73-year history.
|1||Charlatan||Bob Baffert||Martin Garcia||1-1|
|2||My Friends Beer||Jeremiah O’Dwyer||Declan Cannon||20-1|
|3||Mo Mosa||Mike Maker||Kendrick Carmouche||30-1|
|4||Gouverneur Morris||Todd Pletcher||John Velazquez||9-2|
|5||Jungle Runner||Steve Asmussen||Tyler Baze||30-1|
|6||Shooters Shoot||Peter Eurton||Joe Talamo||SCRATCHED|
|7||Wrecking Crew||Peter Miller||Flavien Prat||20-1|
|8||Anneau d’Or||Blaine Wright||Juan Hernandez||6-1|
|9||Winning Impression||Dallas Stewart||Julien Leparoux||15-1|
|10||Crypto Cash||Kenny McPeek||Corey Lanerie||20-1|
|11||Basin||Steve Asmussen||Ricardo Santana, Jr.||8-1|
|1||Finnick the Fierce||Rey Hernandez||Martin Garcia||15-1|
|2||Saratogian||Rodolphe Brisset||Joe Talamo||50-1|
|3||Storm the Court||Peter Eurton||Flavien Prat||6-1|
|4||King Guillermo||Juan Carlos Avila||Samuel Camacho, Jr.||3-1|
|5||Nadal||Bob Baffert||Joel Rosario||5-2|
|6||Code Runner||Steve Asmussen||Stewart Elliott||50-1|
|7||Silver Prospector||Steve Asmussen||Ricardo Santana, Jr.||10-1|
|8||Fast Enough||Rafael Becerra||Tyler Baze||SCRATCHED|
|9||Taishan||Richard Baltas||David Cohen||15-1|
|10||Farmington Road||Todd Pletcher||Javier Castellano||12-1|
|11||Wells Bayou||Brad Cox||Florent Geroux||7-2|
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California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com, where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters: Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager.
She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several racehorse retirement organizations, including CARMA.In 2016, Margaret was the recipient of the prestigious Stanley Bergstein Writing Award, sponsored by Team Valor, and was an Eclipse Award honorable mention for her story, “The Shocking Untold Story of Maria Borell,” which appeared on USRacing.com. The article and subsequent stories helped save 43 abandoned and neglected Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and also helped create a new animal welfare law in Kentucky known as the “Borell Law.”Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull and Arrogate as her favorite horses of all time.She lives in Robinson, Texas, with her longtime beau, Tony. She is the executive director of the 501(c)(3) non-profit horse rescue, The Bridge Sanctuary.