Following an impressive 4 1/4-length win four weeks ago in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, Bob Baffert-trained Concert Tour leads a field of six in Saturday's $1 million Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. This is the last race of the season to award 100 Road to the Kentucky Derby points to the winner, assuring that horse of a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. Rebel Stakes runner-up Hozier, also trained by Baffert, looks to be competitive again in Saturday's race. Super Stock and Get Her Number finished fourth and seventh, respectively, in the Rebel and look to improve. Super Stock won the Texas Thoroughbred Futurity last summer, and although no worse than fourth in four races since, is still winless since then. Get Her Number was victorious in the Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes last September then skipped the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. His seventh-place Rebel effort was his first start in more than five months. Caddo River was sent to post as the 6-5 favorite in the Rebel and faded to fifth after pressing Concert Tour from the start. He won the Smarty Jones Stakes in wire-to-wire fashion prior to that. Last Samurai rounds out the field and was beaten 13 1/4 lengths when fifth in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes in his only stakes try.
Leading the field by what could be a figurative, as well as literal, country mile is Concert Tour, who may have a tactical advantage in the Arkansas Derby in that he can win on the front end or from off the pace. Concert Tour won the San Vicente Stakes at the distance of seven furlongs in February in only the second start of his career, showing a lot of maturity when relaxing in third in the early stages before going by the top two pacesetters for the win. That effort earned a career-best 106 Equibase Speed Figure, the best among all Arkansas Derby starters. In the Rebel Stakes, jockey Joel Rosario took the racetrack away from favorite Caddo River. In spite of drawing the seven post, Concert Tour had the lead a few strides after the start and never looked back. The 105 figure earned could have been higher but there was no reason to ask him to run all out in the stretch after opening up by four lengths with no threats behind. Returning to Bob Baffert’s southern California base after the Rebel, Concert Tour has continued to work strongly and could easily handle this field to bring his record to a perfect four-for-four, similar to current early Kentucky Derby favorite Essential Quality, who won the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes one week ago to bring his record to five-for-five.
Hozier passed five horses in the last half-mile of the Rebel Stakes when rallying from seventh to second, and although he was no match for his stablemate, it was a creditable effort. He earned an 89 figure one race prior that in his two-turn debut which was the second start of his career and he improved considerably to a 99 figure in the Rebel. Hozier is certainly on a pattern to run even better on Saturday.
Caddo River may have to choose different tactics than were planned for the Rebel to be successful in the Arkansas Derby in order to win, but that may not be out of the question. After winning both route starts wire to wire by an average of almost 10 lengths in November and January – the latter in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn with a 101 figure – Caddo River was just not fast enough to beat Concert Tour to the lead in the Rebel and took up a stalking position he had not previously used in a route race from the start. When asked to move up, Caddo River did not have anything to offer and ended up tiring to fifth of eight at the end, regressing to a 95 figure. Drawing inside Concert Tour in the gate once more in the Arkansas Derby, either Caddo River will be more intent on getting the lead from Concert Tour and get as brave as that one did in the Rebel¸ or perhaps this time he may show a finishing kick as he did last fall in the second start of his career, in a sprint, when rallying from third and one length back to make the lead before settling for second. In any event, it may be that even if this colt does run his best race it may not be good enough to beat either of the Baffert trainees.
The rest of the field (with best representative Equibase Speed Figure): Get Her Number (92), Last Samurai (84) and Super Stock (95).