Horse Racing Trader’s Tips: Oaklawn Park – Saturday 2nd May
Racing expert Mark Underhill gives his verdict ahead of the Arkansas Derby
Fans of Stateside racing will have their eyes on Oaklawn Park on Saturday evening, with a 14-race card to look forward to.
With the Kentucky Derby now postponed until September, Oaklawn Park have rescheduled the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby to fill the gap in the calendar.
However, the nine-furlong dirt contest for three-year-olds will have a different format this year. It’s been split into two divisions, each of which carries a £500,000 purse as well as qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby.
Bob Baffert has won this race twice before, with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah first past the post in 2015. He trains the favourite in both divisions this time around.
This year the nine-furlong dirt contest for three-year-olds has been split into two divisions with both carrying a $500,000 purse and valuable points towards Kentucky Derby qualification.
Baffert’s unbeaten Charlatan looks set to be sent off odds-on from stall one at 23:29. Charlatan only has two minor wins at Santa Anita, but the manner of those victories really stood out. He scored by 5 3/4 lengths on his debut, then won by 10 1/4 lengths last time.
His main rival in the market is Todd Pletcher’s Gouverneur Morris who boasts a record of two wins from four career starts, as well as a second-placed finish in the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in October.
Set to go off at 00:43 on Sunday morning, the second division of the Arkansas Derby looks the stronger of the two divisions on paper.
Baffert’s unbeaten colt Nadal is bidding to follow March’s win by 3/4 lengths in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes here. He looks set to be sent off favourite. Barfett also saw American Pharoah win the Rebel Stakes before going on to win the Arkansas Stakes in 2015 – will history repeat itself?
Competition could come from Storm The Court, who won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile but has been beaten on both of his starts this season, including a loss to Nadal in February’s Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita. A stornger challenge could come from King Guillermo who was a surprise winner by 4 3/4-length when last seen in March’s Grade 2 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby.
The Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap is the other feature race on Oaklawn Park’s valuable card. It’s due off at 00:04 and we could be in for a great contest – eight of the 14 declared runners have won on their most recent start.
John Sadler’s Combatant was triumphant in the Santa Anita Handicap on his last start, which took him over the $1 million mark in career prize money.
Mr Freeze, who finished second in the Pegasus World Cup, should be near the head of the market, as should Improbable, a Grade 1 winner as a two-year-old. He could become Bob Baffert’s first winner of this race, though a wide draw doesn’t help his chances.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication