A collection of the top 3-year-old horses will compete in the high-stakes Arkansas Derby at the Oaklawn Park Race Track in Hot Springs, Ark., on Saturday, April 12.
Winners of this event have gone on to place well at the Triple Crown events in the past, though recent winners haven't been as successful as the horses that won in 2004-05 and 2007.
In those three years, the horses that won the Arkansas Derby (Smarty Jones in 2004, Afleet Alex in 2005 and Curlin in 2007) all placed in the top three of each Triple Crown race.
Smarty Jones and Afleet Alex won two legs of the Triple Crown. Only one winner since 2007 has finished in the top three spots at a Triple Crown race.
Not so coincidentally, Curlin's offspring, Ride on Curlin, is one of the high-profile horses at the 2014 Arkansas Derby.
Curlin was an inexperienced third in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, but he went on to win the Preakness, just missed to Rags to Riches in the Belmont, and ended the year with victories over older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders' Cup Classic.
With that pedigree, the expectations are high for Ride on Curlin. Can he come through?
His trainer Billy Gowan sounded confident when he spoke about the horse's final drill. Per ESPN (via Bloodhorse.com), Gowan said:
"He worked really good. It was the same type of work he had before the Rebel (Stakes). He started out slow and finished fast. I do know he's really good right now. He's perfect."
Here's the field Ride on Curlin will be running against, the official post positions and the TV schedule. Mary Rampellini of Daily Racing Form gives us the goods:
|HRTV||Saturday, April 12||6:07 pm ET|
|2||Knock Em Flat||20-1|
|4||Ride On Curlin||12-1|
Mary Rampellini of Daily Racing Form
Other Contenders to Watch
Trainer Steve Asmussen's colt has a real chance to win on Saturday.
After finishing second in the Rebel Stakes, Tapiture has the look of a serious contender heading into the Arkansas Derby. The horse has experience running the Derby distance, so he should be prepared to compete for the entirety of the race.
Don't be surprised to see Tapiture and Ride on Curlin in a close battle during the final moments of the race.
D. Wayne Lukas has a strong contender in Strong Mandate. Talent is not the concern with this horse, consistency is.
A fourth-place finish at the Rebel Stakes was an example of underachieving, as was his seventh-place result at the Champagne in October.
If Strong Mandate can find his best form, he could also present some issues for the field.