The 2015 Arkansas Derby is the last stop in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, a string of races that lends qualifying points to well-performing horses hoping to secure a spot in the illustrious field at Churchill Downs on May 2.
American Pharoah appears to be the top horse heading into Saturday and eventually the Kentucky Derby.
The three-year-old colt, trained by the legendary Bob Baffert, is coming off a big win at the Rebel Stakes on March 14 and will be looking to again take home the top position at the Arkansas Derby, a 1 1/8-mile, Grade 1 race to be held at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Points are at a premium in the Kentucky Derby buildup. Daily Racing Form's Jay Privman explains why many will be nervously watching the scoreboard on Saturday: "A maximum of 20 horses can start in the Derby. If it overfills, then the points earned in the prep races will determine who gets to run. For those on or near the bubble right now, it’s nervous time."
According to Privman, the Arkansas Derby allots 100 points to the winner, 40 to second place, 20 to third and another 10 for fourth place.
Here's a rundown of the Arkansas Derby info, from TV schedule to post positions, odds and more.
TV Schedule, Race Info
Date: Saturday, April 11
Location: Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas
Total Purse: $1 million
Post Time (ET): 7:18 p.m.
Post Positions and Odds
|2015 Arkansas Derby Odds, Post Positions|
|1||The Truth or Else||15-1|
|3||Bridget's Big Luvy||20-1|
|8||Win the Space||30-1|
With those supremely confident odds, it's no wonder American Pharoah is soaking up the attention from the press in the buildup to this critical race. The majestic horse has proudly finished first in three consecutive races dating back to September 2014. American Pharoah's only other result was a fifth-place finish in a maiden special weight race at the Del Mar race track on Aug. 9, per Equibase.com.
Co-owner Justin Zayat is aware that American Pharoah hasn't faced much of a challenge in his brief career, but he chalks that up to the horse's excellent racing attributes.
"You know, he's a naturally brilliant, brilliant horse. If you watch his works, he just does everything so effortlessly. I think that's honestly the reason that he's never been challenged,'' Zayat said on Tuesday, via USA Today's Gary Mihoces.
Veteran jockey Victor Espinoza will ride American Pharoah on Saturday in the eight-horse field. A strong post position and a dearth of formidable opposition seemingly spell an easy victory for American Pharoah, but there are no guarantees before a big Grade 1 race like the Arkansas Derby.
Far Right and Madefromlucky are the other top horses in the field, with the teams in charge of both thoroughbreds desperately looking to secure some much-needed points on Saturday. Privman provides more details:
Far Right could move into the top 20 with at least a fourth-place finish Saturday, but his position would change if he’s outrun by one, two, or three horses who currently have fewer points, like Madefromlucky (20 points), Bold Conquest (17), The Truth Or Else (11), or Mr. Z (14) if he runs in the Arkansas Derby.
Far Right and Madefromlucky are both on the outside looking in as of right now, at 23rd place and 26th place in the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, respectively. Far Right has three first-place finishes in eight career starts, two of them coming in his last two races, the Smarty Jones Stakes and Grade 3 Southwest Stakes. Both of those races were held at Oaklawn Park, per Equibase.com.
Madefromlucky already knows what it's like to try and fail to keep up with American Pharoah. The chestnut colt finished in second place at the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes on March 14.
Even without scoring finishes at the Arkansas Derby, both could still potentially participate in the Run for the Roses if horses ahead of them in the standings drop out. Still, with four of the eight horses in line to earn points on Saturday, coming up empty would be a major disappointment for these well-regarded horses.
Should American Pharoah win the Arkansas Derby on Saturday, look for the early Triple Crown talk to start heating up in advance of the Kentucky Derby. American Pharoah's lack of mileage and top-notch training—Baffert has seen three of his horses win the Kentucky Derby—will make him a darling of the media buildup heading into Churchill Downs.