The $1 million Gr. I Arkansas Derby will be run today, and it promises to be a very contested race since there are many horses with plenty of chances to win.
Bob Baffert's Bodemeister and Secret Circle are the favorites to win. But this race, just like the Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland that will be run earlier, fares to be the last opportunity today to get enough graded earnings to assure a spot in the Kentucky Derby.
Among all the runners today, Sabercat ($601,429) is the highest listed on the Top 20 Kentucky Derby graded earnings list and should have no problem making the starting gate the first Saturday of May.
Secret Circle ($470,000) is also safe in 12th place of the Top 20 list and will be going for a sweep of the Oaklawn Park Derby preps, which would net him a $5 million bonus. Only Smarty Jones and Lawyer Ron have achieved the feat, and he has a tough battle to earn his.
For Bodemeister ($60,000) a win will be the only way to assure himself a spot in the Derby. He is currently 49th and a second-place finish would earn him $200,000, which would only place him tied for 22nd place—outside the top 20.
Isn't He Clever ($188,000) and Optimizer ($181,000) could get enough earnings with a second-place finish. Jake Mo ($85,000) is 44th and like Bodemeister, a win would be the only sure way to get to the Kentucky Derby.
Here are the predictions for the entire field:
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|
He is a slightly improving colt that comes with three very good prep workouts at Gulfstream for this race. He runs his best when he comes from well of the pace, which should suit him well here. But he is still below the top horses here and would need a big jump to win. Predicted finish: Eight.
|2||Stat ||John R. Velazquez ||Todd A. Pletcher ||10/1|
This is an intriguing horse. He should take the lead on the race and set the early fractions thanks to his inside post. In his last he made a big jump when he won at a mile running away. But this will be his two-turn debut and might be a bit short today. Predicted finish: Seventh.
|3||Najjaar ||Calvin H. Borel ||Daniel C. Peitz ||15/1|
I like this horse a lot as he is asking for more distance, which he will get on this race. He needs to improve just a notch and can bring the upset. Borel will not leave the horse as far this time and should close fast on the leaders. Could be the upset today. Predicted finish: Fifth.
|4||Jake Mo ||M.Clifton Berry ||Allen Milligan ||30/1|
This horse has been just below the level of the favorites here. At both the Southwest and the Rebel he ran behind the pace and settled behind the leaders, running evenly throughout the race. The field is stronger today so he needs to improve if he is to contend. Predicted finish: Ninth.
|5||Secret Circle||Rafael Bejarano||Bob Baffert ||5/2|
Even though his sire, Eddington, was able to win at 9.5 furlongs, the 2011 Breeders Cup Juvenile Sprint champ keeps answering the distance questions by winning every race with added distance.
He showed he has tactical speed, was able to rate and battle through traffic at the Rebel, but I didn't like his Beyer regression. I know he will make his best effort, show up today and contend, but will finish behind my two favorites, Predicted finish: Third (Show).
|6||Isn't He Clever||Robbie J. Albarado ||Henry Dominguez ||6/1|
The blinkers will be off today for the first time in his racing career. Could this be the result of his last race where after looking like the winner and stop his rally in the stretch of the Sunland Derby?
It's very possible and today the change should help him settle easier behind the pace setters. Albarado will make his move with Bodemeister but I am not sure he can get past him on the stretch. It was a tough call as I think he can win, but had to pick just one. Predicted finish: Second (Place).
|7||Optimizer||Jon K. Court ||D.Wayne Lukas ||6/1|
He came from the clouds to almost catch Secret Circle in the Rebel his last time out. His jockey is looking for a three-peat on this race and has a very good chance.
He made a huge jump with his Beyer on that last race and has the added distance that he seems to be craving. I just think that while there will be pace, it will not favor the trailers and he will fall short. Predicted finish: Fourth.
|8||Atigun||Terry J. Thompson||Kenneth G. McPeek ||30/1|
|He will have his first race after adding Lasix. His first workout with it was a bullet and tied for one of the best among the contenders today. Still, I just don't see him on par with the best here. Predicted finish: 10th.|
|9||Sabercat||Corey S. Nakatani||Steven M. Asmussen ||15/1|
His performance on his last race at the Rebel was very disappointing where he finished sixth passing only the tiring horses. But that was his first race in four months and should be primed for a better effort today.
I think he still has at least one more race to go before he can be fully fit and contend with the top of the division. The ultimate goal for him should be to peak at the Kentucky Derby, not here. Predicted finish: Sixth.
|10||Raconteur||Chris P. Decarlo||Todd A. Pletcher ||15/1|
He has won three of his last four races, but his lone loss came as a well beaten seventh place—12 lengths behind—to Hansen. If he is to win here he has to improve by a lot that race. Predicted finish: Last.
|11||Bodemeister||Mike E. Smith||Bob Baffert ||9/5|
There are two interesting things with him: The blinkers are off for the first time in his career, and jockey Rafael Bejarano chose to ride Secret Circle and Hall of Famer Mike Smith gets the mount.
With the outside post, Smith will let him to progressively find his way to the inside and stalk the pace setter. He will make his move around the turn and hold the stretch finishers. I don't think there is a doubt he can get to the nine furlongs as his sire is Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker and his dam is by Storm Cat. Predicted finish: First (Win).