The biggest race in North America on the first Saturday in May this year isn’t the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, which has been moved to the Sept. 5, the first Saturday of that month.
Instead, we have a very good pair of big races in the form of split divisions of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park, which occurred after 22 horses were entered to run in the race (two have since scratched, one from east division). Each division offers a $500,000 purse and 100 points to the winner via the Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying series, with 40 to the runner-up, 20 to the third-place finisher and 20 to the fourth-place finisher.
Leading the first division is Charlatan, who is undefeated and untested in two races to date. Both wins were earned leading from start to finish and this colt should have an easy lead once again in this race as there aren’t any other horses likely to take him on in the early stages for fear of costing themselves a chance at success, or at least some Kentucky Derby points. Charlatan earned a career-best 108 Equibase Speed Figure winning his most recent race, which is the best figure earned by any horse in the field, and he could improve off the effort in his third career start. However, Charlatan is stretching out to a mile and an eighth distance as well as running in a stakes race for the first time, while others have experience at the distance and/or at this level.
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Anneau d’Or is one of those horses as he was the runner-up by a head in the Grade 1 TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November, earning a 106 Equibase Speed Figure. He subsequently finished second by a neck one month later in the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity to prove his Breeders’ Cup effort was no fluke, and then took two months off and finished ninth in the second division of the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford on Feb. 15 when he tried blinkers for the first time. With that equipment removed for Arkansas Derby, it’s very possible Anneau d’Or can return to his form of last fall, and if he does that might be good enough to win this race. One more thing Anneau d’Or may have going for him is his pedigree for this distance – his sire is Medaglia d’Oro, and he is out of a Tapit mare. Per a STATS Race Lens pedigree query, sons and daughters of Medaglia d’Oro have the most wins in dirt route stakes races at distances of 1 1/8 and 1 1/4 miles compared with any other sire who has entrants in the Arkansas Derby field.
Gouverneur Morris is proven at the level based on his runner-up effort in the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity last October. After skipping the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November to prepare for his 3-year-old campaign, Gouverneur Morris returned to win at a mile and 40 yards in February. One month later in the Grade 1 Curlin Florida Derby, Gouverneur Morris finished fourth of nine and boosted his top Equibase Speed Figure to 104. Although Constitution, the sire of Gouverneur Morris, has not had many horses run to date, one of those is the undisputed leader of the division That horse, Tiz the Law, won the Florida Derby impressively. Gouverneur Morris is making his third start off a layoff and is on a pattern for an even better effort, which could be good enough to win this division of the Arkansas Derby.
The rest of the field, with their best Equibase Speed Figures, is: Basin (96); Crypto Cash (93); Jungle Runner (85); Mo Mosa (92); My Friends Beer (89); Winning Impression (89); and Wrecking Crew (100).