Grade 3 Sunland Derby runner-up Isn't He Clever is among the new shooters for the $1 million Arkansas Derby.
Nominations for Oaklawn's signature event closed with 97 horses being made eligible for the 1 1/8-mile race, including several horses that had not been part of the early-bird nomination process prior to the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes February 20. Among the new names on the list were Isn't He Clever and Grade 3 Spiral Stakes third-place finisher Heavy Breathing.
Isn't He Clever, by 2004 Arkansas Derby winner Smarty Jones, is expected to arrive April 12 from his New Mexico base as he attempts to pad his bankroll of $188,000 in graded stakes earnings. With several key Kentucky Derby preps still remaining, he is sitting precariously on the bubble on the earnings list, the determining factor in making the 20-horse Derby field.
"He's doing good -- real good," trainer Henry Dominguez said. "We're just hoping he runs a similar race to the Sunland Derby, but maybe wait a little longer this time. It's his style (to be near the front) and we're not going to try and change him."
Isn't He Clever has four wins and two seconds from seven starts while employing stalking tactics. His only "off-the-board" performance came in the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita in February, when he went straight to the lead and eventually faded to fifth. He was elevated for fourth in that race with the disqualification of Groovin' Solo.
"We've kind of thrown that race out," Dominguez said. "It was his first race of the year and he was fresh. That's not his style. He's done well since then and really matured."
Dominguez said that jockey Robby Albarado, who won the 2007 Arkansas Derby with Curlin, will have the mount.