While May 2 was not the first Saturday of the month that everyone was expecting, there were plenty of familiar faces in the Oaklawn Park winner’s circle to make the rescheduling of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve just a bit more bearable.
Running his competition off their feet in the first division of the $500,000, Grade 1 Arkansas Derby was Charlatan, an unbeaten son of Speightstown and the latest in a continued string of powerhouse Kentucky Derby hopefuls from the barn of Bob Baffert.
Guided by Martin Garcia, Charlatan broke perfectly in the 1 1/8-mile dirt race and went straight to the front. Angled in toward the rail, the colt made it look easy along the backstretch as he posted quarter-mile fractions of :22.88, :46.08, and 1:09.68 for six furlongs while maintaining a two-length lead.
Steve Asmussen trainee Basin, who won the Grade 1 Runhappy Hopeful Stakes at 2, broke sharply from post-position nine under Ricardo Santana Jr. and straightened quickly to get up behind Charlatan. The pair pressed the leader in the two path, followed by Anneau d’Or in third.
Charlatan found another gear at the top of the stretch and increased his margin to 4 1/2 lengths. Santana asked Basin for more as the field stormed home, but the Liam’s Map colt didn’t have enough to pose any real threat to Charlatan, who crossed the finish line six lengths in front.
The final time was 1:48.49 on a fast track.
“I can say I am really lucky to ride him,” Garcia said. “Mr. Baffert and the owners had a lot of choices. They pick me. I just did my job. He just took me to the winner’s circle. They told me we were smoking. I went in 1:09, and he was just galloping. He did it all within himself. I felt someone coming at the three-eighths, and I let him go. He just took off. That’s a sign of a really good horse.”
Gouverneur Morris finished a neck behind runner-up Basin for third. It was another three lengths back to Winning Impression in fourth. Anneau d’Or was fifth.
“He was in hot pursuit the whole way,” Asmussen said of Basin. “He hung in there really well. Solid fractions. I thought Ricardo gave him every shot. He just finished second-best.”
Each division of the Arkansas Derby awards qualifying points toward the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby in values of 100-40-20-10 to the first four finishers. Charlatan’s 100 points moved him to fourth on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.
Owned in partnership by SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Stonestreet Stables, Fred Hertrich III, John Fielding, and Golconda Stables, Charlatan made his debut for Baffert on Feb. 16 at Santa Anita Park, where he also wired the field to win by 5 3/4 lengths. He made his second start in a one-mile allowance-optional claiming race March 14 at the Southern California track. He again blew away his competition in an even more dominating gate-to-wire performance, winning by 10 1/4 lengths.
Bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, Charlatan is out of the Quiet American mare Authenticity, who has produced stakes winner Hanalei Moon. A winner of the Grade La Troienne Stakes and Grade 3 Shuvee Handicap, Authenticity hit the board four times in Grade 1 company before she was retired at the end of 2013.
Charlatan has earned $367,200 from his three victories.