"It was a big run," Cox said after winning the Arkansas Derby for a second straight year after his initial success with Cyberknife in 2022. "We always saw him as a mile-and-a-quarter, mile-and-an-eighth horse, and now he's won twice at a mile-and-an-eighth. His sire won this race and I think he'll do better with more distance."
Though the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby offered 100-40-30-20-10 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, that did not matter to the Pennsylvania-bred Angel of Empire. He had already secured a spot in the Derby field by winning the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Lincoln and Lamarque Crescent City Ford in his last start and finishing second in the Smarty Jones Stakes to give him 54 points before Saturday's stakes.
Two Eagles River set the fractions of :23.27,:47.26 and 1:12.24, while being pressed by 3-1 second choice Reincarnate. Approaching the quarter pole, the Tim Yakteen-trained Reincarnate launched his bid for the lead, but moving best of all was Angel of Empire under Flavien Prat. They were seventh early but swept past the field four-wide and powered to the lead in early stretch. From there the rest of the field was racing for minor placings.
King Russell rallied from ninth to take second by a half-length over Reincarnate. A maiden winner for trainer Ron Moquette in his last start, the 40 points for his runner-up finish lifted the son of Creative Cause into 17th in the race for 20 spots, with the 20th spot guaranteed to Japan's Continuar. Reincarnate netted 30 points and with 45 is 13th on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard.
Rocket Can, the beaten 5-2 favorite, was a head back in fourth, but his 20 points, when added to his previous 40 points, give him 60, lifting him into seventh on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard.