2022 Arkansas Derby Cheat Sheet: Get to Know the Horses

Secret Oath, winner of three straight races at Oaklawn Park this year, trains over the track in advance of a planned start in the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby on April 2. (Coady Photography)

One of the most important Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve prep races will be held earlier than before in 2022, as Oaklawn Park has moved the $1.25 million, Grade 1 Arkansas Derby up two weeks from its previous spot on the Road to the Derby calendar in order to give contenders more time between races. The 86th Arkansas Derby is set for Saturday, April 2 and will anchor a great day of racing in Hot Springs that also includes the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and three other stakes races.

This century, the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby has been a proving ground for several horses that went on to make history in the Triple Crown series, led by Horse of the Year American Pharoah in 2015, who dominated at Oaklawn before sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.

Other notable horses to come out of the Arkansas Derby and shine on the sport’s biggest stage include Creator (2016 Belmont Stakes winner); Curlin (2007 Preakness Stakes winner, Belmont Stakes runner-up, 3-year-old champion, Horse of the Year); Afleet Alex (2005 Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes winner, 3-year-old champion); and Smarty Jones (2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, Belmont Stakes runner-up, 3-year-old champion). Overall, the Arkansas Derby has produced seven Kentucky Derby winners – read about some of them in this article.

This year’s renewal drew a competitive nine-horse field and some added intrigue as Secret Oath, one of the top 3-year-old fillies in training who has posted three dominant wins at Oaklawn, will run against males. The Arkansas Derby has a scheduled post time of 7:35 p.m. ET and will be televised live on FS1 and on TVG.

Read on to learn about all of the Arkansas Derby contenders.

Coady Photography

1. Kavod (15-1 morning-line odds)

Jockey: Mitchell Murrill

Trainer: Chris Hartman

Owners: James Rogers and Michael Robinson

Career record: 12 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $343,000

Earnings per start: $28,583

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 91

Kentucky Derby points: 7

Pedigree: Lea – Weekend Connection, by Pulpit

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Kavod has finished fourth in each of the prior Kentucky Derby preps this season at Oaklawn Park – the Smarty Jones Stakes, the Southwest Stakes, and the Rebel Stakes – and that spot appears to be his ceiling in Saturday’s race as well. In fact, fourth may be an optimistic prediction as he could not close the deal in those three route races after running on or near the lead through the first half-mile. In his defense, Kavod did have to check in midstretch of the Rebel Stakes as closer Ethereal Road drifted in a bit, and he only finished 1 ¾ lengths behind longshot winner Un Ojo. He has the most racing experience among the Arkansas Derby field with 12 starts and has been ambitiously placed in stakes races over the past nine months by both his previous ownership group and his current connections. Overall, though, he’s yet to win beyond six furlongs, and there’s a good chance that if he fails to impress in the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby we’ll see him competing in sprints or one-turn miles over the rest of his career. Look for Kavod to be sent to the front early under aggressive rider Mitchell Murrill, who’ll be aboard for the first time. He’ll have blinkers removed Saturday.

Coady Photography

2. Chasing Time (12-1)

Jockey: Jose Lezcano

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owner: MyRaceHorse

Career record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $209,460

Earnings per start: $34,910

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 93

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Not This Time – Race Hunter, by Dixie Union

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Chasing Time is back for another try to secure Kentucky Derby points in the Arkansas Derby after he finished fifth out of 11 in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn on Feb. 26. He ran evenly in his stakes debut and earned a 84 Equibase Speed Figure, a seven-point drop from his prior race when he impressively won a one-mile allowance-optional claiming race at Oaklawn by 7 ¾ lengths. The Rebel marked the first time in Chasing Time’s career where he didn’t go off as the post-time favorite, and overall this colt has an aura of “untapped potential.” In his allowance victory at Oaklawn he pressed the pace, and jockey Jose Lezcano, who will ride him for the first time, should have him close to the lead Saturday. This colt will need a career-best effort to post an upset win in the Arkansas Derby for the MyRaceHorse partnership and Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Asmussen, the all-time winningest trainer in North America and Oaklawn’s leading trainer as well, has won the Arkansas Derby four times, with Private Emblem (2002), Curlin (2007), Creator (2016), and Super Stock (2021).

Coady Photography

3. Barber Road (8-1)

Jockey: Reylu Gutierrez

Trainer: John Ortiz

Owner: WSS Racing

Career record: 7 starts – 2 wins – 3 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $400,720

Earnings per start: $57,246

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 96

Kentucky Derby points: 18

Pedigree: Race Day – Encounter, by Southern Image

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Closer/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This colt has arguably been the best competitor through Oaklawn’s Kentucky Derby prep series so far, as he’s posted runner-up finishes in both the Smarty Jones Stakes and Southwest Stakes and a close third-place finish in the Rebel Stakes. He split horses in deep stretch under Reylu Gutierrez and was trying hard near the finish line in the Rebel, coming up a half-length short to longshot Un Ojo and just a nose behind Ethereal Road. On the negative side, the Rebel did not come up strong in terms of speed figures and the results were a bit baffling as both Ethereal Road and Barber Road rallied into a slow pace while Un Ojo hung tough from his stalking spot on the rail but did not exactly flash a powerful turn of foot. Un Ojo and Barber Road are back for more in the Arkansas Derby, and this race will give the pair a chance to validate their Rebel Stakes efforts against formidable new shooters Doppelganger and Secret Oath plus a couple of buzz horses in Cyberknife and We the People. A $15,000 purchase as a weanling who posted his first win in a maiden claiming race, Barber Road has already outrun his humble beginnings, and he’s shown enough consistency to merit consideration for all exotic bets in the Arkansas Derby with an outsider’s chance at pulling the upset. A runner-up finish should give him enough points for Derby 148.

4. Doppelganger (3-1)

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: Tim Yakteen

Owners: SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital, Catherine Donovan,  Golconda Stable, and Siena Farm

Career record: 3 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $123,200

Earnings per start: $41,067

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 101

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Into Mischief – Twice the Lady, by Quiet American

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Doppelganger ships in from California to contest the Arkansas Derby and will be trained by Tim Yakteen after Bob Baffert moved four of his Kentucky Derby contenders to other barns last week while his legal appeals against a 90-day suspension by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and a two-year ban from Churchill Downs continue. The son of leading sire Into Mischief broke his maiden impressively for Baffert Dec. 11 at Los Alamitos but has leveled off since then, finishing fourth as the 9-10 favorite in the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes on Jan. 29 and then second in the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe Stakes on March 5, both at Santa Anita Park. Those two races were won by the very fast Forbidden Kingdom, who’ll vie for favoritism in the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby on April 9 and could very well end up as one of the top two or three betting choices for the Kentucky Derby. There’s no horse entered in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby with Forbidden Kingdom’s overpowering early speed, and it would not be a surprise to see Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez get Doppelganger out of the starting gate fast and secure a good position early near – or even on – the lead. He has gotten off to poor starts in two of his three races, including the San Felipe, and will have blinkers removed in the Arkansas Derby. California-based horses have had success in the Arkansas Derby through the years (Baffert has won it four times), and Doppelganger is a major threat in Saturday’s renewal. He received no Kentucky Derby points for his San Felipe effort due to Churchill’s ban on Baffert-trained horses, so he’ll need to finish first or second under Yakteen’s supervision to punch his ticket to Louisville. Doppelganger’s co-owners SF Racing, Starlight Racing and Madaket Stables were part of a partnership that campaigned Baffert-trained Charlatan, winner of a division of the Arkansas Derby in 2020.

Coady Photography

5. Un Ojo (6-1)

Jockey: Ramon Vazquez

Trainer: Ricky Courville

Owners: Cypress Creek Equine and Whispering Oaks Farm

Career record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $776,321

Earnings per start: $129,387

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 91

Kentucky Derby points: 54

Pedigree: Laoban – Risk a Chance, by A.P. Indy

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Every Kentucky Derby season, there emerges one or two horses that claim the “little guy” mantle and bring compelling storylines to the biggest race in North America. Un Ojo is this year’s model, having punched his Derby ticket with an improbable 75.40-1 upset victory in the Feb. 26 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn that netted him 50 qualifying points. The New York-bred gelding, who lost his left eye in an accident as a yearling, saved ground in the 1 1/16-mile Rebel under Ramon Vazquez and kept churning through the stretch as leaders Kavod and Newgrange tired. Un Ojo had enough in reserve to hold off dueling closers Ethereal Road and Barber Road and prevail by a half-length, and for that effort he received a pedestrian 91 Equibase Speed Figure that he’ll need to improve on substantially in order to back up his Rebel shocker with another win. In his starts prior to the Rebel, including a runner-up finish at 28.25-1 odds in the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct on Feb. 5, Un Ojo came from farther back in the field, and it will be interesting to see if Vazquez will position his mount in a stalking spot as he did in the Rebel or let him revert to his closing style in his second start aboard the gelding. There are enough new shooters shipping in for the Arkansas Derby to ensure that Un Ojo carries high odds again – although not approaching 75-1 – so those who feel his win in the Rebel was legit should be eager to back him again. This easy-to-root-for contender is heading to Louisville regardless of the outcome.

Eclipse Sportswire

6. Secret Oath (5-2)

Jockey: Luis Contreras

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas

Owner: Briland Farm

Career record: 6 starts – 4 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $465,167

Earnings per start: $77,258

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 100

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Arrogate – Absinthe Minded, by Quiet American

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Secret Oath’s presence in the Arkansas Derby adds a truckload of excitement to the proceedings, as she becomes only the second filly to contest a 170-point Kentucky Derby prep since the qualifying points system was introduced in 2013 (the first, Swiss Skydiver, ran second in the rescheduled Toyota Blue Grass Stakes during summer 2020). Her trainer, 86-year-old Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, has not committed to the Kentucky Derby if Secret Oath finishes first or second Saturday, and that’s because she’s already amassed 60 points for the Longines Kentucky Oaks May 6 and figures to be one of the top choices for that race if she runs in it. Still, it’s good to have options when you’re chasing the biggest prizes in the sport, and Secret Oath undoubtedly is a strong win candidate against the boys, particularly when considering that she’s won three consecutive two-turn races for fillies at Oaklawn – including the Martha Washington Stakes and the Honeybee Stakes – by a combined margin of 23 lengths. This filly by Arrogate and out of a multiple Oaklawn stakes-winning mare has a beautiful stride and a push-button running style that’s perfectly suited for 1 1/8 miles or longer, and her Equibase Speed Figures are among the best in this field. Luis Contreras has been aboard Secret Oath for all three of her Oaklawn powerhouse wins and he should have her positioned in midpack through the backstretch before giving her the signal on the far turn. Will Secret Oath become the first filly to run in the Kentucky Derby since Devil May Care in 2010 and give Hall of Famer Lukas a shot at winning the Derby again with a filly as he did with Winning Colors in 1988? Saturday’s result will provide great clarity – but one way or another, racing fans should see this talented filly competing at Churchill Downs during Derby week. Lukas’ two prior Arkansas Derby wins came with champion filly Althea in 1984 (who ran 19th in the Kentucky Derby) and Tank’s Prospect in 1985, who won that year’s Preakness Stakes.

Coady Photography

7. Ben Diesel (15-1)

Jockey: Jon Court

Trainer: Dallas Stewart

Owner: Willis Horton Racing

Career record: 5 starts – 1 win – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $167,443

Earnings per start: $33,489

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 93

Kentucky Derby points: 3

Pedigree: Will Take Charge – Girls Secret, by Giant’s Causeway

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Like Kavod and Barber Road, Ben Diesel enters the Arkansas Derby having run in each of the prior Kentucky Derby preps at Oaklawn this season. He finished seventh in the Smarty Jones Stakes, third in the Southwest Stakes, and most recently eighth by 6 ¾ lengths in the Rebel Stakes won by Un Ojo on Feb. 26. In the Smarty Jones, he contested an honest early pace but had nothing left in the stretch and faded badly, while in the Southwest he stalked a slower pace and briefly loomed a threat only to drift in midstretch. He was never a threat in the slow-paced Rebel Stakes and earned a career-low 80 Equibase Speed Figure, a puzzling effort to say the least. On the positive side, this son of 2013 champion 3-year-old male Will Take Charge and full brother (same sire [father] and dam [mother]) to multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Will’s Secret has been training very well at Oaklawn since the Rebel and he retains the services of Jon Court, who’s been aboard for all of his starts. Overall, however, Ben Diesel has a good shot at carrying the highest post-time odds in a competitive Arkansas Derby and will need to display a heretofore unseen level of talent and competitiveness to finish in one of the top two positions and earn enough qualifying points to secure a trip to the Kentucky Derby. Court won back-to-back editions of the Arkansas Derby aboard Line of David in 2010 and Archarcharch in 2011.

8. Cyberknife (8-1)

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Trainer: Brad Cox

Owner: Gold Square

Career record: 5 starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $110,000

Earnings per start: $22,000

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 100

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Gun Runner – Awesome Flower, by Flower Alley

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: After disappointing in his stakes debut back in January, Cyberknife showed encouraging improvement in his subsequent start and heads into the Arkansas Derby with some support among future-book bettors as a late-blooming Kentucky Derby contender. He enjoyed a successful juvenile campaign last fall, finishing first in his debut at Churchill Downs only to be disqualified for late bumping, followed by a close second at Churchill and then a breakthrough win in a 1 1/16-mile maiden at Fair Grounds in December. In his 3-year-old debut, Cyberknife stalked the pace in the 1 1/16-mile Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds on Jan. 22 before tiring badly, but he then earned a 100 Equibase Speed Figure when taking a 1 1/16-mile allowance-optional claiming race at the same track by three lengths on Feb. 19. Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox has kept him at Fair Grounds for a series of solid subsequent workouts since then, and all systems are go for a make-or-break bid to earn Kentucky Derby points Saturday. Cyberknife should be sitting within striking range through the backstretch under Florent Geroux, and he has a pedigree suitable for handling 1 1/8 miles as a son of 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner and from a female family that includes Dubai World Cup winner Well Armed. If he can back up or better his breakthrough Fair Grounds effort, Cyberknife has a shot at posting a mild upset in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby. Cox and Geroux finished second in last year’s race with Caddo River.

Coady Photography

9. We the People (7-2)

Jockey: Flavien Prat

Trainer: Rodolphe Brisset

Owners: WinStar Farm, CMNWLTH, and Siena Farm

Career record: 2 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $114,000

Earnings per start: $57,000

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 99

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Constitution – Letchworth, by Tiznow

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Despite the fact that We the People is making his stakes debut in a Grade 1 in only his third career start, he figures to be one of the top two or three post-time betting choices in the Arkansas Derby coming off of two visually impressive and overpowering wins over the past couple of months at Oaklawn. He debuted in a one-mile maiden race on Feb. 12 and rolled to a 5 ¾-length victory. We the People then backed that up with a five-length score in a 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claiming race on March 12. He earned a 91 Equibase Speed Figure in his maiden win and boosted that to a 99 in his second start. Continued progression Saturday could put this fast-riser in the Arkansas Derby winner’s circle, although he’ll obviously be competing against a far better group of horses this time. Still, there is no confirmed pacesetter in this field, and it would not be surprising to see jockey Flavien Prat send We the People to the front from his outside post in order to angle in, save ground, and set the early tempo. Florent Geroux rode We the People in his first two wins but stays on Cyberknife as first-call rider for Brad Cox, and Prat flies in from California as a superb substitute. We the People has a solid pedigree for route racing; his sire, Constitution. has enjoyed success early in his stud career with runners such as Tiz the Law, and his dam’s (mother’s) side of the pedigree is represented by a bunch of graded stakes winners, including millionaire and 2000 Arkansas Derby winner Graeme Hall. Co-owner WinStar Farm owned 2016 Arkansas Derby winner and subsequent Belmont Stakes champ Creator.

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