Monday Morning Mig: Classic Empire's Arkansas Derby Comeback

Classic Empire, with Julian Leparoux aboard, rallied late to win the $1 million Arkansas Derby and earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Retired jockey Richard Migliore, who works as a racing analyst for the New York Racing Association, offers his expertise from the perspective of a professional rider in a regular feature for America's Best Racing — Monday Morning Mig. A winner of 4,450 career races and the 1981 Eclipse Award as outstanding apprentice will review key races on the Triple Crown trail and the road to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, providing his thoughts leading into the race, insights about what happened during the running of the race and key takeaways from the outcome.

Here Migliore takes a closer look at the April 15 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.

1. Post Positions: Malagacy, one of the main contenders, drew poorly with the far outside post in the 12-horse field, while the favorite Classic Empire drew well with post 2.

2. The Start: There appeared to be plenty of speed in this Arkansas Derby and the pace was lively. The only surprise was Rockin Rudy not making the lead from post position 1.

3. The Big Move: Jockey Julien Leparoux was able to ease the eventual winner Classic Empire back out of traffic on the second turn and get him to the outside for a clear run.

4. The Big Miss: Lookin at Lee’s inability to find a clear path cost him valuable momentum through the stretch as he bobbed and weaved through traffic to finish third. Fourth-place Sonneteer was extremely wide. These two colts were finishing fastest of all and either one of them could have won with better trips.

5. The Finish: Classic Empire showed why he was 2-year-old champion as he returned to form after overcoming several problems this winter. He had to work hard to get by a very game pacesetter in Conquest Mo Money.

6. The Takeaway: Classic Empire needed a big performance not only to show he was back in form but also to earn desperately needed points to make the Kentucky Derby field. Trainer Mark Casse and his son Norman did a great job to have him ready on Saturday. The third-place finisher, Lookin At Lee, is a very live longshot heading to Kentucky if he can get into the 20-horse field. His closing style could work in his favor going a mile and quarter with a fast pace.  

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