The 2016 Kentucky Derby Trail comes to an end with the running of the $1 million Arkansas Derby. This final major graded stakes race give some of the top three-year old thoroughbreds in the nation one last chance to state their case as a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender.
A full field is expected for this year’s Arkansas Derby and after digging deep into the list of potential entries I have come up with my top exacta pick for the main event on this Saturday’s race card at Oaklawn.
Arkansas Derby- Oaklawn Park
The Arkansas Derby is a Grade 1 stakes race for three-year old thoroughbreds and the total prize purse for this year’s event has been set at $1 million. It will be contested on the dirt track at Oaklawn Park over a distance of 1 1/8 miles.
Heading into Saturday’s race there are 12 horse listed as entered. This field is deep in talent, but the best of the best in my book is Cupid. Trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Martin Garcia, this three-year old Kentucky-bred colt has been highly touted his entire career and right now he is ranked 27th by Horse Racing Nation.
A pedigree of Tapit with a progeny going back to Unbridled, he was brought along very slowly by Baffert with just a pair of Maiden Special Weight races as a juvenile. It was worth the wait to see his three-year old debut in last month’s Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn where he outpaced the field over a distance of 1 1/16 miles to get the win.
My second choice for Saturday’s race was the second-place horse in the Rebel. Whitmore is another HRN ranked horse in the field at 49th and his current rating is also second-highest in the field at 7.91. Trained by Ronald Moquett and ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., this Kentucky-bred colt started his three-year old campaign with a victory in an Allowance race at Oaklawn before finishing second in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at this track in mid-February.
This horse has made some great strides against the betting odds in recent weeks, culminating with his solid second-place run in the Rebel. This has been a pleasant turnaround since his disappointing fifth-place finish in the Grade 3 Delta Down Jackpot in his only race as a juvenile.
Bonus Pick: Lexington Stakes- Keeneland Racecourse
The Lexington Stakes is a Grade 3 event open to three-year old thoroughbreds with a total prize purse of $150,000. Saturday’s race will be contested on dirt over a distance of 1 1/16 miles.
There are 10 horses listed as entered for Saturday’s Lexington, but the one three-year old that should draw the majority of attention from bettors is Swipe. Trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by Flavien Prat, this Kentucky-bred colt will be making his season debut since finishing second to Nyquist in last October’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Despite having no races as a three-year old, he is still ranked 78th by HRN with a rating of 7.76 based on a stellar juvenile campaign that included seven-straight finishes in the money culminating with that impressive run in the Juvenile at Keeneland.
My second choice for sports picks on Saturday in an exacta bet would be Collected. There are horses in the field rated higher, but this three-year old Kentucky-bred colt has the duo of trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Javier Castellano in his corner. He is also coming off a victory in the non-graded Sunland Park Festival of Racing on March 20 over a distance of 1 1/8 miles.
He started his three-year old campaign with a victory in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Park before fading out of the money in the Southwest Stakes by finishing fourth. Collected placed second in the Grade 3 Cecil B. DeMile Stakes at DelMar in his only run as a juvenile.