A pair of Bob Baffert-trained colts, Bodemeister and Secret Circle, are the early morning line favorites for this Saturday's Gr. I Arkansas Derby to be run at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, AR.
Most of the horses here are looking at some late graded earnings to earn their spot in the Kentucky Derby. Something that is enticing with the $1 million purse that will be distributed here.
Bodemeister and Secret Circle will be facing another nine horses in what should be one of the most leveled and contested Kentucky Derby prep races this year.
While they will most certainly be the top two betting choices come post time on Saturday, there is a handful of contenders that with a slight improvement could easily beat them, and the rest are not that far away.
Bodemeister has scored 101 Beyer figures in his last two races, and took a monster effort from Creative Cause to beat him in the San Felipe on his last race. He comes into this race working lights out and the only question with him is whether he can get to the nine furlongs.
He will have the blinkers off for this race.
Secret Circle is going for the sweep of the Oaklawn Park Derby prep races—Southwest, Rebel and Arkansas Derby. Taking a line from a Donna Summer song, this horse works hard for the money, and keeps answering the doubters winning each time he goes for added distance.
The fact that he won the Breeders Cup Juvenile Sprint has everyone thinking he cannot get to the classic distances. He won the Rebel after falling back to fourth and managing traffic which showed he has the main tools to succeed with the added distance.
One interesting fact to look at, is that jockey Rafael Bejarano has been the rider for both Bodemeister and Secret Circle on all of their races. He had the tough choice, and chose Secret Circle for this race.
Hall of Famer Mike Smith picks up the mount on Bodemeister, so there is no slack with the rider situation. But it still an interesting situation to consider for this race.
Isn't He Clever had a heartbreaking loss in his last race when he was out-finished by Daddy Nose Best at the Sunland Derby. He may have moved a tad too early or was just tiring on that race, that is the question regarding him.
The answer to that question totally influences his chances to win this race. Another interesting fact that will be influential for him on this race is that he will have the blinkers off.
After a disappointing performance on the Risen Star, Optimizer was flying down the stretch and almost caught Secret Circle in his last race at the Rebel. His pedigree spells classic distance running and the added distance can only help his chances here.
Fifty-one-year-old Jon Court gets the ride again, and he will be going for his third straight Arkansas Derby win in a row. He won the last two editions with Line of David and Archarcharch.
Sabercat disappointed as he bounced backwards in the Rebel after three straight improving victories. He was running farther than usual on that race and he could only pass tiring horses down the stretch.
The Rebel was the first race of the year for Sabercat, and his first in three months. He should be better fit for this and veteran jockey Corey Nakatani repeats the mount.
Najjaar made a run from the back of the pack at the Rebel to finish a fast closing sixth. His pedigree screams for more distance and the added furlong could serve him well here. The mount of three-time Kentucky Derby winner Calvin Borel only increases those chances.
The Arkansas Derby has provided many great American Classic races performers in the past. Most recently the likes of Curlin, Smarty Jones and Afleet Alex, so there is always high expectations surrounding this race.
This year the field of hopefuls is led by two Bob Baffert trained hoses. While Baffert is no stranger to Triple Crown success—having won nine of them—he has never won the Arkansas Derby, and has his best chance at winning one here.
The Arkansas Derby will be the part of the two-stakes coverage by CNBC that starts at 6:00 p.m. ET, that will also feature the $750,000 Gr. I Toyota Bluegrass Stakes. The Arkansas Derby will be the second race to be broadcast.
The scheduled post time is at 5:45 p.m. CT.
Arkansas Derby | Grade I | Purse: $1,000,000 | Distance: 9 Furlongs | Post Time: 5:45 p.m. CT
|1||Cozzetti||Jose Lezcano ||Dale Romans ||15/1
|2||Stat||John R. Velazquez ||Todd A. Pletcher ||10/1|
|3||Najjaar||Calvin H. Borel||Daniel C. Peitz ||15/1|
|4||Jake Mo ||M. Clifton Berry||Allen Millegan ||30/1
|5||Secret Circle ||Rafael Bejarano ||Bob Baffert ||5/2|
|6||Isn't He Clever||Robbie J. Albarado||Henry Dominguez ||6/1|
|7||Optimizer||Jon K. Court ||D. Wayne Lukas ||6/1
|8||Atigun||Terry J. Thompson||Kenneth G. McPeek||30/1|
|9||Sabercat||Corey S. Nakatani||Steven M. Asmussen||15/1|
|10||Raconteur||Chris P. Decarlo||Todd A. Pletcher||15/1|
|11||Bodemeister||Mike E. Smith||Bob Baffert||9/5|