Repole Stable's Overanalyze, a dull fifth in the March 2 Gotham Stakes in his reappearance, roared back with a commanding, 4 1/4-length victory in Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Rafael Bejarano, the 7-2 third choice rallied boldly down the stretch to win 100 points toward the Kentucky Derby, and confirm his spot in the starting gate on May 4.
The top two betting choices didn't land a blow. War Academy, the 9-5 favorite, was pulled up on the backstretch, while the 3-1 Oxbow made little impact from off the pace in fifth.
Overanalyze was among the top two-year-olds last season, a status cemented by his photo-finish victory in the November 24 Remsen at Aqueduct. The Dixie Union colt earned 10 points for denying Normandy Invasion by a nose, so his Derby total now stands at 110.
The Remsen's reputation was subsequently dented early on this season. But with Normandy Invasion's terrific second to Verrazano in the April 6 Wood Memorial, and Overanalyze's restoration at Oaklawn, the Remsen form has re-asserted itself.
In the early going, Overanalyze was parked out wide in seventh, several lengths off the contested pace. Falling Sky led in the opening strides, but deferred to Divine Ambition through an opening quarter in :23 1/5, before regaining the advantage through a half in :47 3/5. Heaven's Runway was prominent along with War Academy, until War Academy lost his action. Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith pulled him up, and the Bob Baffert colt later walked off the track.
Meanwhile, Baffert's other runner, Den's Legacy, advanced to challenge Falling Sky. Only a half-length off the pacesetter at the six-furlong mark in 1:12 2/5, Den's Legacy loomed a prime danger at the top of the stretch. Falling Sky was still in front, but only by a head, when they reached the mile in 1:39 1/5.
By that point, Overanalyze was on the move. Picking up readily inside the final furlong, he pulled well clear to finish 1 1/8 miles on the fast track in 1:51 4/5 and returned $9.40, $5.60 and $4.60. He thereby became the third Pletcher runner to win a major prep, following Revolutionary in the Louisiana Derby and presumptive Derby favorite Verrazano.
The 23-1 Frac Daddy got up by a half-length in a scramble for second, completing a big day for trainer Ken McPeek, who won the Blue Grass at Keeneland with Java's War. The trainer lodged an objection against Overanalyze, alleging interference, but it was swiftly disallowed. Frac Daddy garnered 40 points for his effort, and his total of 44 should be enough to see him in the Derby as well.
Carve, another longshot at 22-1, rallied for third. Falling Sky was a further neck back in fourth, and Oxbow was the same margin away in fifth. Den's Legacy tired to sixth, trailed by Divine Ambition, Texas Bling and Heaven's Runway.
Baffert tweeted a positive bulletin on War Academy.
"Mike Smith says War Academy fine after he bobbled down the backside," the Hall of Famer reported.
Overanalyze improved his scorecard to 7-4-0-1, $956,381. The bay colt was a front-running debut winner sprinting five furlongs at Saratoga on August 9, where he recorded a gaudy 101 BRIS Speed rating. He took a significant step up in trip to seven furlongs for the Hopeful, but faded to fourth after chasing the early pace. Overanalyze rebounded with a vengeance in the September 30 Futurity, only to regress when third in the October 28 Iroquois at Churchill Downs. His up-and-down pattern continued with his win in the Remsen, disappointment in the Gotham, and romp in Arkansas.
Bred by Diamond A. Racing Corp. in Kentucky, Overanalyze was a $380,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase. He is a half-brother to Meadow Breeze, who captured the 2006 Matron when it still held Grade 1 status. Another half-sibling, Mighty Monsoon, finished third in last year's Best Pal.
Overanalyze is out of the unraced Unaccounted For mare Unacloud, who is herself a half-sister to Ilusoria, the third-place finisher in the 2000 Matron. Ilusoria went on to produce multiple stakes heroine and Grade 3-placed Peak Maria's Way.
Oaklawn reported an Arkansas Derby Day crowd of 66,158.