A lot of unexpected things occurred in Saturday's $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park, the least of which was the 25-1 upset turned in by Robert and Loval Yagos' ARCHARCHARCH (Arch). The start of the race was delayed by the antics of Dance City (City Zip), who refused to load in the gate for several minutes while eight rivals, including 4-5 favorite The Factor (War Front), had time to either get impatient or doze off. Once the field of 13 was finally sent on their way, The Factor broke alertly but was easily outrun for a lead nearly everyone presumed would be his.
J P's Gusto (Successful Appeal) burst out for the lead and had a two-length advantage through a quarter in :22 2/5. He was followed in second by the temperamental Dance City, while The Factor raced several lengths behind the leader in third while racing outside. The top three positions were unchanged when the half was reached in :46 2/5, with The Factor racing well out in the middle of the track and Archarcharch racing unhurried in ninth.
Rounding the far turn, J P's Gusto began to run out of gas as Dance City took aim with The Factor and Sway Away (Afleet Alex) making it four horses across the track. J P's Gusto had his head in front after six furlongs in 1:11 1/5, but at the quarter pole Dance City and Sway Away were moving best of the quartet with The Factor struggling to stay in contention in between those two.
In the stretch, Sway Away began to gain an advantage over Dance City with Archarcharch, who had advanced to fifth approaching the top of the stretch, poised to make a big run out in the middle of the track. No sooner had Sway Away looked like a prime contender for the win that he started to get leg-weary, and ultimately lugged in on Dance City, who was attempting to re-rally along the rail. Archarcharch, meanwhile, was full of run out in the four path and soon grabbed the lead past the sixteenth pole.
There was one last bit of intrigue to the Arkansas Derby as Nehro (Mineshaft) uncorked a powerful rally from far back and missed catching the winner by a diminishing neck, and was actually ahead of Archarcharch several strides past the wire. But the glory belonged to Archarcharch, who got nine furlongs on the fast track in 1:49 1/5. He was ridden to victory by Jon Court, the son-in-law of winning trainer Jinks Fires.
Archarcharch returned $52.40, $16.80 and $8.20 and topped exotics worth $416.80 (exacta), $10,565.80 (trifecta) and $59,987.60 (9-2-8 superfecta). Nehro, who had occupied the same position in the Louisiana Derby (G2) by the same margin in late March, paid $9 and $5.60 at 9-1. Dance City outfinished Sway Away by 1 1/2 lengths for the show and was worth $14.20 at 29-1. The order of finish was rounded out by Alternation (Distorted Humor), J W Blue (Sky Mesa), The Factor, J P's Gusto, Elite Alex (Afleet Alex), Saratoga Red (Eddington), Brethren (Distorted Humor), Caleb's Posse (Posse), Truman's Commander (Friends Lake).
A debut second at Churchill Downs in November, Archarcharch graduated by 1 3/4 lengths in the Sugar Bowl S. at Fair Grounds the following month. Off that six-furlong score, Archarcharch was the even-money favorite in the January 17 Smarty Jones S. at Oaklawn, but wilted to fourth after pressing the pace. He rebounded to take the Southwest S. (G3) by a length at 14-1, then ran an even third behind The Factor when 6 1/2 lengths behind that one in last month's Rebel S. (G2). The dark bay colt's record now stands at 6-3-1-1, $832,744.
Bred in Kentucky by Grapestock LLC, Archarcharch was a $60,000 Keeneland September yearling. He was produced by the Grade 2-placed Woodman's Dancer (Woodman), making him a half-brother to stakes winner Run Sully Run (Cherokee Run). Woodman's Dancer has also produced a juvenile full sister to the Southwest winner named Androeah and a yearling half-brother by Silver Train.
Archarcharch's second dam was the Hollywood Oaks (G1) winner Pattern Step (Nureyev), who also produced stakes winners Seattle Pattern (Seattle Slew) and Total Bull (Fusaichi Pegasus) and was the ancestress of Group 3 winner and classic-placed Arch Swing (Arch). Pattern Step was the daughter of another Hollywood Oaks winner, Tipping Time (*Commanding II).