Nadal slams second Arkansas Derby division to give Baffert sweep

May 03, 2020 Kellie Reilly/

A little more than an hour after stablemate Charlatan wired the first division of the Arkansas Derby (G1), fellow unbeaten Nadal responded by capturing the $500,000 second division – in slightly faster time – at Oaklawn Park. Thus Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert swept the doubleheader, and signaled his chances of a record-tying sixth Kentucky Derby (G1) on the first Saturday in September.

Nadal, the 9-10 favorite after gutsy victories in the Rebel (G2) and San Vicente (G2), figured to be involved in a taxing early pace again. Instead of being the hunted, however, he became the hunter when Wells Bayou blasted to the lead. Under Joel Rosario, Nadal adapted beautifully into the stalking role and gradually increased the pressure.

Turning for home, there was no doubt about the result as Nadal put away Wells Bayou and forged clear. King Guillermo, who was also tracking early, kept on gamely but could make no impression on the winner.

Nadal crossed the wire fully in command by three lengths, completing 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.34. Charlatan had taken 1:48.49 in his unchallenged, 6-length romp, going slightly quicker fractions of :22.88, :46.08, 1:09.68, and 1:35.33. By way of comparison in the second division, Wells Bayou posted :23.08, :46.21, and 1:09.85. Nadal was in front at the mile split in 1:35.63 and reeled off his last furlong in :12.71, compared to Charlatan’s closing fraction of :13.16.

The new Kentucky Derby points leader with 150 on the scoreboard, Nadal banked 100 points here to go along with his 50 from the Rebel. King Guillermo added 40 to his prior 50 for shocking the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), upping his total to 90. The 62-1 Finnick the Fierce placed third, good for 20 points, and now has 25 in his account. Farmington Road ground his way from last into fourth, a 10-point effort that inches him up to 15 in all.

Wells Bayou tired to fifth. Next came Storm the Court, still winless since shocking last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1); Silver Prospector, Code Runner, and Taishan. Fast Enough and Saratogian were scratched.

Campaigned by George Bolton, Arthur Hoyeau, Barry Lipman, and Mark Mathiesen, Nadal is now a perfect 4-for-4, and he’s a newly minted millionaire with earnings of $1,053,000.

Co-owner Bolton told Oaklawn publicity that he expected Nadal to handle the situation, since Baffert had been working him behind horses.

“I thought if there was speed today, he could sit off it,” Bolton said. “He had a much more comfortable trip than in the Rebel when he was attacked by three different challengers. I was very proud. He finished well.

“I have a secret. Bob called me two days ago and said he wanted me to come. He said he thought he’d run big and wanted me there.”

A son of Blame, who edged Zenyatta in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) thriller, Nadal was bred by Sierra Farm in Kentucky. He initially sold to horseman Randy Bradshaw, agent, for $65,000 as a yearling at Keeneland September. The bay developed into a hot commodity as a 2-year-old in training, when bringing $700,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s Gulfstream Sale.

Nadal is even hotter now as a premier Derby contender, matching brilliant speed with tactical sense and the ability to negotiate a route of ground. Named for the tennis legend, Nadal is proving a worthy tribute. 

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