Welcome to the end of the road for the 2019 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve prep season.
The $1 million Arkansas Derby will be the last of 35 preps in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series. The race also is the final chance for horses to earn a spot in the field for the run for roses and for handicappers to hone their skills in advance of the May 4 opening leg of the Triple Crown.
Looking back on the last 12 editions of the Arkansas Derby, the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park has been the key prep for the Arkansas Derby, with five winners in 12 years, including 2018 victor Magnum Moon.
Horses who last raced at Santa Anita Park won on three occasions, twice in the San Felipe Stakes and once in an allowance race, and Gulfstream Park has two wins. The Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct and Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds have one apiece, which impacts Tikhvin Flew (Gotham) and Country House (Louisiana Derby).
Thanks to Magnum Moon, trainer Todd Pletcher has three Arkansas Derby wins during the sample period, but he did not send a horse to Oaklawn Park this year. Bob Baffert and Steve Asmussen each have two wins, with Baffert sending out Improbable on Saturday and Asmussen stuffing the ballot box with a foursome of Tikhvin Flew, Laughing Fox, Jersey Agenda, and Long Range Toddy.
Favored Magnum Moon made it six winning favorites in a mixed bag of a stakes in which four of the winners were 11-1 or higher. That role as a favorite should go to either Improbable or Omaha Beach.
As for running styles, three of the 12 were front-running winners (Line of David in 2010, Bodemeister in 2012, and Magnum Moon 2018). Two of the dozen were second after the opening half-mile.
Deep closers are hardly overmatched thanks to wins by Creator, who was 12th after a half mile, prevailed in 2016 and Archarcharch rallied from ninth in 2011.
Good luck Saturday and get your bags packed for Louisville on the first Saturday in May.