Arkansas Derby draws 11 and is final chance for Kentucky Derby qualifiers

The 83rd running of the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) is set for Saturday, April 13, at Oaklawn Park, and 11 three-year-olds go to post with the winner earning $600,000. The top-four finishers earn points (100-40-20-10) towards qualifying for the Kentucky Derby in the final major prep race of 36 selected American races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Prior to the running of the Arkansas Derby Saturday, 12 fillies fire in Friday’s $500,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3), which is the last chance race to qualify for the Kentucky Oaks (G1).

A total of 17 horses won a Triple Crown race after racing in the Arkansas Derby, with the most recent Creator in the 2016 Belmont Stakes (G1). Also, American Pharoah won the 2015 Arkansas Derby on his way to capturing the Triple Crown. Last year’s winner Magnum Moon went wire-to-wire as the 4-5 favorite to win his fourth straight race, but went on to finish 19th in the Kentucky Derby before retiring following a leg injury in June.

Last year a total of $16,159,771 was bet on Arkansas Derby Day races, a record for the track. The betting favorite has won the Arkansas Derby three of the last four years, and four of the last 10. This year’s morning-line favorite is Improbable at 8-5.

1   Improbable   B. Baffert   J. Ortiz   8-5
2   Six Shooter   P. Holthus   D. Cohen   30-1
3   Omaha Beach   R. Mandella   M. Smith   2-1
4   Tikhvin Flew   S. Asmussen   T. Baze   30-1
5   Laughing Fox   S. Asmussen   R. Santana Jr.   20-1
6   Gray Attempt   W. Fires   S. Elliott   8-1
7   Galilean   J. Hollenforfer   F. Prat   10-1
8   Country House   B. Mott   J. Rosario   12-1
9   One Flew South   D. O’Neill   C. Borel   50-1
10   Jersey Agenda   S. Asmussen   R. Vazquez   10-1
11   Long Range Toddy   S. Asmussen   J. Court   5-1

The 2019 Arkansas Derby favorite is Improbable, who needs to finish in the top three to earn his spot into the Kentucky Derby. Improbable is three-for-four after being caught at the wire in the split division Rebel Stakes (G2) by Long Range Toddy. However, in that race he broke from the outside and was wide throughout. Now with new rider Jose Ortiz, Improbable will break from the rail and be closer up pressing the pace. Questions remain about Improbable getting the Derby distance and this 1 18-mile test against a modest field will be one to watch as he adds blinkers and comes off some fast works over the newer deep track at Santa Anita Park.

Long Range Toddy beat Improbable in the first division of the Rebel, and he’s vulnerable here and is already in the Derby field. Nine-time Oaklawn leading trainer Steve Asmussen has four colts in this field, but this one may be more in tune-up mode stalking the faster pace and content to come out healthy.

Galilean is a pace presser who is bred to go this distance and more. He finished third in the first division Rebel behind Long Range Toddy after battling neck-and-neck. Galilean won three of his first four stakes races and continued improvement could produce a surprise.

Omaha Beach is a pace presser who has been training lights out since beating Game Winner in the second division of the Rebel in his stakes debut. He’s likely in the Derby field, but a fourth-place finish or better would secure his spot. This well-bred colt can go long, and he’ll force the pressured pace with jockey Mike Smith looking to sit just off the leaders and make his move turning for home.

Country House is a deep closer who needs at least a top-three finish to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. He finished second in the Risen Star (G2) and fourth in the Louisiana Derby (G2), and Country House needs to show more speed to not only win, but confirm his place as a potential deep threat for the Derby.

The rest of the field are tosses from win wagers, including Gray Attempt, who is built to sprint and will get on or near the lead, but likely fade. The top big long shot is Tikhvin Flew, who is bred to go long and finished sixth in the Gotham (G2) with a wicked pace. The overall depth is modest at best for this year’s Arkansas Derby.

The Arkansas Derby is Race 11 on Saturday, April 13, with post time at 7:43 p.m. (ET) and will be broadcast on NBCSN.

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