Arkansas Derby Headlines Final Weekend on Road to Kentucky Derby

Apr 14, 2017 Kevin Kerstein

The Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by concludes Saturday with the $1 million Arkansas Derby (Grade I), which will help finalize the preference list for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) on Saturday, May 6. 

 The 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park is the lone-remaining Championship Series race worth 100 points to the winner and 40 points to the runner-up, which will be crucial to make the starting gate on the first Saturday in May. In addition to first two finishing positions, the Arkansas Derby’s third and fourth-place finishers will receive 20 and 10 points respectively.

 Arkansas Derby entrant Untrapped entered Saturday as the “bubble” horse at the 20th position on the preference list with 34 points. Only the Top 16 horses have clinched spots in the Kentucky Derby starting gate.

 Untrapped and reigning 2-year-old champion Classic Empire can secure berths with a Top 4 finish.

 Following a disappointing third-place finish in the Feb. 4 Holy Bull (GII), the Mark Casse-trained Classic Empire returns to the races as the 8-5 morning line favorite in the Arkansas Derby. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner had a few hiccups in his training this winter at Palm Meadows near Miami and was relocated to the Winding Oaks Training Facility in Ocala, Fla. to continue his preparations for the Arkansas Derby.

 The son of Pioneerof the Nile is scheduled to face 11 rivals including Malagacy, the undefeated son of Shackleford who was a two-length winner of the March 18 Rebel (GII) to lock up 50 points and a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate.

 Untrapped, the third-place finisher in the Rebel, will pick up the riding services of Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith for the Arkansas Derby in his attempt for a chance to run for the roses.

 Sunland Derby runner-up Conquest Mo Money, who would need to be supplemented to the Kentucky Derby for $200,000, and Rebel runner-up Sonneteer can lock down Derby spots with a Top 3 finish.

 Petrov, Looking At Lee, Rowdy the Warrior and Silver Dust need to finish in the Top 2 for a Derby run. Rockin Rudy, Grandpa’s Dream and One Dreamy Dude need to win because a runner-up effort might put them on the “bubble” with 40 points as non-restricted stakes earnings serve as tie-breakers.

 The Arkansas Derby will go as Race 11 at Oaklawn Park with a post time of 7:18 p.m. (all times EDT).

 The $200,000 Lexington (GIII) also will be run Saturday but with the Top 4 finishers earning 10-4-2-1 points, respectively, the 1 1/16-mile race isn’t expected to impact the Kentucky Derby field. The Lexington goes as Race 9 at Keeneland at 5:34 p.m.

 California shipper West Coast is Lexington’s 3-1 morning line favorite in the field of 10. The 3-year-old colt by Flatter broke his maiden March 12 at Santa Anita and Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will add blinkers for the first time.

 West Coast’s main opponents include Tampa Bay Derby (GII) fourth-place finisher No Dozing; front-running maiden victor Time to Travel; and Spiral (GIII) third-place finisher Convict Pike.

 The Road to the Kentucky Oaks concludes Friday with the Fantasy (GIII) at Oaklawn Park. The Fantasy is Race 8 at 5:42 p.m. The top-four finishers will receive 100-40-20-10 points, respectively.



 1. Louisiana Derby winner Girvin is scheduled to breeze after the renovation break Saturday morning at Churchill Downs’ Trackside Training Center. Girvin is based in trainer Joe Sharp’s Barn A.

 2.     McCraken shipped to Ian Wilkes’ Barn 26 at Churchill Downs on Monday following his third-place finish in the Blue Grass. The colt returned to the track for regular training at 6:45 a.m. on Wednesday.

 3. Trainer Todd Pletcher confirmed Monday that Southwest (GII) winner One Liner has been removed from Kentucky Derby consideration.

 4. Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. confirmed Monday that he will ride McCraken in the Kentucky Derby.

 5. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith has picked up the Kentucky Derby mount on Girvin after regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr. opted to ride McCraken.

 6. Blue Grass fourth-place finisher J Boys Echo returned to trainer Dale Romans’ Barn 4 at Churchill Downs following Saturday’s race at Keeneland. The Gotham (GII) winner could breeze as early as Monday morning at Churchill Downs but his training plans are in flux.

 7. Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming returned to the work tab Friday morning at Palm Beach Downs. The 3-year-old colt breezed a half-mile in :49.80.

 8. Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen breezed Sunland Derby (GIII) winner Hence and Louisiana Derby third-place finisher Local Hero on Monday at Churchill Downs. Hence, No. 13 on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard with 50 points, breezed a half-mile in :47.80, while Local Hero, No. 23 with 30 points, breezed a half-mile in :51.80, according to the Churchill Downs official clockers.

 9. Todd Pletcher’s Derby contingent is scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs on Tuesday, April 25.

 10. Florida Derby runner-up State of Honor is scheduled to breeze Sunday at 6 a.m. at Churchill Downs, according to trainer Mark Casse.



 Wood Memorial (GII) winner Irish War Cry vanned to trainer Graham Motion’s Fair Hill training base on Saturday. Motion reported that the New Jersey-bred will have one more work at Fair Hill before shipping to Churchill Downs. … Blue Grass (GII) upset winner Irap returned to the track Wednesday morning at Keeneland for the first time since winning Saturday’s race. Also returning to the track was Blue Grass fifth-place finisher Tapwrit. … Florida Derby (GI) third-place finisher Gunnevera is expected to breeze on Saturday morning at Gulfstream Park West, according to trainer Antonio Sano. The colt is expected to arrive at Churchill Downs on April 22. … Blue Grass runner-up Practical Joke will remain at Keeneland for the time being according to trainer Chad Brown. … Trainer John Shirreffs reported that Santa Anita Derby (GI) winner Gormley is likely to remain in California until Derby week. Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) winner Farrell has been training regularly at Churchill Downs and is scheduled to work Saturday morning. … Gulfstream Park Oaks (GI) victor Salty returned to trainer Mark Casse’s Barn 36 last Friday and is scheduled to breeze on Sunday morning. … Late nominations for the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) and Derby Week stakes races close on Saturday, April 15. The stakes races are the April 29: $100,000 William Walker; May 4: $100,000 Kentucky Juvenile; May 5: $150,000 Edgewood (GIII), $200,000 Eight Belles (GII), $400,000 Alysheba (GII), $300,000 La Troienne (GI) and $150,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint (GIII); May 6: $250,000 Pat Day Mile (GIII), $300,000 American Turf (GII), $500,000 Churchill Downs (GII), $300,000 Distaff Turf Mile (GII) and $300,000 Humana Distaff (GI). …Inside Churchill Downs,” co-hosted by Churchill Downs Racetrack’s John Asher, Darren Rogers and Kevin Kerstein, airs Saturday from 10-11 a.m. on ESPN 680/105.7.



SATURDAY: Derby Contenders: Girvin (8:30 a.m., Joe Sharp, Trackside Barn A); Fast and Accurate (8:30 a.m., Mike Maker, Trackside Barn K). Oaks Contenders: Farrell (6:00 a.m., Wayne Catalano, Barn 30)

SUNDAY: Derby Contenders: State of Honor (6 a.m., Mark Casse, Barn 36). Oaks Contenders: Salty (6 a.m., Casse, Barn 36).

MONDAY: Derby Contenders: *possible* J Boys Echo (8:45 a.m., Dale Romans, Barn 4).



 MONDAY: Derby Contenders: Classic Empire (Mark Casse, Barn 36); Silver Dust (Randy Morse, Barn 34).


PAST PERFORMANCES & STAKES HISTORIES Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks Past Performances Arkansas Derby Past Performances Lexington Past Performances

 Arkansas Derby History

 Lexington Stakes History


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