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The $1,000,000.00 Grade 1 Arkansas Derby Oaklawn Park Race # 11 A Mile & 1/8th Saturday April 13th, 2019 Estimated post Time: 6:41PM EST Analysis by Geo Sette

           Geo at work

 

 

 

We are officially only 3 weeks away from the much anticipated 1st Saturday in May and the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby. This very influential Arkansas Derby will play a major role towards the final listed field. It’s much more than just a prep race, as for some of the 11 entered colts, it can very well be a stepping stone towards greatness.

 

This race does not have the 145-year history of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, the 3 magical Triple Crown races; but it inaugurated back in 1936 and over the past few decades it has gained much more significance to the sport we love.

 

Who can forget American Pharoah winning this race in 2015 for the Zayat Stable and Hall of Famer Trainer Bob Baffert? It was the beginning of American Pharoah’s “Beast Mode”  as he romped to his victory smashing his rivals. His dynamic simply took on a whole new meaning after he won the Triple Crown, something the entire racing industry was dying to witness for greater than three decades. So, this Arkansas Derby was the breeding grounds for a champion to be born.   

 

The possibilities are limitless.

 

This year’s race is filled with talented colts. There is a field of eleven. Four  are trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, who has won this race three times, the last time in 2016 with Creator.  He also saddled the great Curlin who won this race in 2007 and Private Emblem who emerged victorious in 2002.  Yes, even though he’s won this race  3 times, he’s second to Todd Pletcher who was the winning trainer 5 times, and who, interestingly, does not have any of his horses entered for this race.

 

As you would expect, there are several great jockeys riding in this race which has produced 7 different winning riders over the last 7 years, so it’s wide open to all being saddled.  They all want it, let’s see who gets it done.

 

It’s the biggest day of the year in the humble city of Hot Springs Arkansas, which should be hosting a packed house and what will likely be a thrilling race, one that can potentially produce a colt who will take his victory towards added greatness., and who knows perhaps much more.

Here’s how I see the race finishing with my exclusive precise order of finish and handicapping analysis.

As always, use my thoughts as a guide for you to make an informed betting decision for yourself.

 

# 3 Omaha Beach      

After several hours of thought and analysis, this guy is my top choice.

I was extremely impressed how he performed in the Grade 2 Rebel.  He had to dig down deep and hold on in very game fashion to win by a nose.  The very intelligent and dependable Mike Smith is up and he is saddled by Richard Mandella. This colt has shown continuous improvement. He began his career on the weeds in California, three turf efforts where he ran well. Two of which he could have easily won, but lost photos at the wire.  It took him 5 races to officially break his maiden, but he raced willingly each time and was deserving to graduate earlier. Those efforts led to his dynamic stretch run beating Kentucky Derby hopeful Game Winner. Since then he’s had a pair of smart and efficient works that are a sign of fitness. I feel he’s bred to handle the distance.  He’s shown to be a game runner on multiple surfaces, including being in the slop where he won by 9 decisive lengths splishing & splashing to victory at Santa Anita.  So I’m supporting a colt with grit and guts, who is versatile, is 6 for 6 lifetime in the money (including his races on the lawn). He looks to be ready for an explosive stretch run. So let’s go, let’s put on a show in the great city of Hot Springs, Arkansas.

 

# 11 Long Range Toddy  

In my opening paragraphs I talked about Steve Asmussen and his four starters in this field.

Well in my opinion, this colt gives him his best chance to win what would be his 4th Arkansas Derby victory.  

I’m not a fan of his outside post, but I feel with an alert getaway, he’s got enough tactical speed to get favorable position early. The ageless Jon Court, who’s still riding well at the tender age of 58, is back in the saddle. Long Range Toddy has shown an affinity for Oaklawn Park, hitting the board in all three starts there, his last being a division of the Grade 2 Rebel.  Like my top choice, he has shown steady progress, improving with each race he has run. I believe that this son of Take Charge Indy may very well be right there as they are charging down the stretch. I am hoping for a dry track, because he’s yet to prove any running when things get sloppy and wet, and his recent morning breeze over this same track was slow on muddy ground.  I originally had him selected as my 4th choice, but moved him up based on his consistency and his trainer’s propensity for having his horses prepared for this race.   Lastly, Jon Court also knows this surface well as he won this race back in 2010 and  2011. Interesting….

 

# 8 Country House  

I’ve had my eye on this guy since he ran a disappointing 4th at the Louisiana Derby.  

I’m a big fan of Bill Mott and his ability to get his horses ready for big races. He switches riders from the steady hands of Luis Saez ( who I believe does his best riding while on the lead) to the strong arms of Joel Rosario who is very aggressive and is known to elicit powerful and  relentless stretch runs. Country House has  been a habitual slow starter, so he needs a sharp beginning. He doesn’t need to be fast, he just needs a clean start and decent positioning. Then I feel he’s got a powerful close to his punch, and he may very well have a moderate to fast pace to close into.  I see him as a threat to run his very best race. If he gets a good lane and my expected aggressive ride from Rosario, he just may get up to make the exacta and triple prices worth wagering on. Watch the board, if he’s ignored by the local railbirds you may get a robust 15-1 or better.

 

# 1 Improbable  

This son of City Zip draws the rail which will almost assure him of quality positioning early and then to become a stalking menace as the race progresses forward. He’s likely to be the betting favorite, not entirely overwhelming, but somewhere in the area of 7:5 mainly because he’s being saddled by Bob Baffert and has Junior Ortiz in the silks.  Normally I would fully support Ortiz as he and his brother Irad, are two of the best riders in the business, but in this case he replaces the consistent and highly reliable Drayden Van Dyke who has ridden this colt on all of his 4 career starts. In his last, he was a money burning disappointment, failing to hit the wire first at the window smashing odds of 2:5 when he was beaten by my 2nd choice Long Range Toddy.  So now he comes into this race after a pair of 6 panel works to freshen him up and they also add a mask, feeling the blinkers will help his chances.  He’s a Grade one winner ( as a Two-year old) and deserves to be respected. He has the talent and connections to take it all, but he’s my 4th choice here because you’ll lose betting value due to his connections. I also feel that he should have won his last as he led and was ultimately caught at the wire. If you confidently use my top three in your exotics wages, he’d be a decent saver if any of my choices falter.

 

# 7 Galilean     

This son of Uncle Mo is a gorgeous looking colt, saddled by Jerry Hollendorfer. I just love his coat and overall appearance. He also possesses quality speed and should be amongst the leaders. Flavien Prat is back up after an impressive showing racing in the Grade 2 Rebel alongside #11, my 2nd choice, Long Range Toddy, and the likely betting favorite, # 1 Improbable. His connections have decided to remove his blinkers and he could improve off his last effort, but I’m siding against him hitting the board, perhaps only with his best, a minor share. His last was his first race in open company after all of his starts with state bred colts.  I feel there are major question marks with him taking the distance as he has only attempted a route once, and he bore out horribly, finishing last. To be used only in deeper bottom gimmicks like the tails to your superfectas. To me the others I have listed above are simply more appealing.

 

 

 

# 6 Gray Attempt   

This guy comes into this race fresh and very fit, as his latest works clearly indicate, especially his recent workout in the Mud over this same surface, a quality bullet breeze in 58.3 . He possesses high speed and is likely to be on the lead as far as he goes.  He’s won 4 of his 6 lifetime starts so he’s proven to have a nose for the wire; albeit vs lesser stakes competition. I have him listed as a “Horse for the course” because two of his best efforts came over this Oaklawn Park surface. His speed can potentially hang on to share some purse money to support your bottom gimmicks, but he is likely to tire some as they pass the 1/8 pole.  Stewart Elliot takes over the reins and he’s a pretty good rider on the lead.  

 

#9 One Flew South      

 

This colt comes into this Grade one event with the least amount of experience, sporting only two lifetime starts.  He began his career with a smashing victory on a synthetic surface and was backed heavily at the window. His connections rested him thereafter until stretching out and running in a low grade stakes race at Sunland Park. He broke well but faltered late and he looked somewhat lethargic. Doug O’Neill switches to Calvin Borel and adds a mask for good measure. His most recent workout was in the mud from the gate, perhaps that will keep him fresh.  I’m expecting long odds here as it’s not likely he’ll get too much backing at the windows. I’m tossing him for this race and will watch his progression going forward. May I suggest you stay away from betting him too, unless you want your money to fly south as well.

 

# 2 Six Shooter He’s by far the most experienced colt in this field. He’s actually run some promising races, and he’s been in the money in 7 of those 10 tries. His numbers however are below many of his opponents and, in my opinion,  not worthy of a Grade 1-million-dollar purse. A switch to David Cohen in the silks as he’s ambitiously entered in this field, but he would be a complete surprise to me if he hit the board, so I have him selected for 8th in this field of 11.  

 

# 5 Laughing Fox, #10 Jersey Agenda  & # 4 Tikhvin Flew These guys make up my bottom three, specifically in this order, collectively the, seem up against it with # 4 my choice to run last, especially after he failed to close coming up empty in the mile Gotham where he was blessed to close into a sizzling pace and failed miserably.  It’s a shame, as he’s saddled by Steve Asmussen with Tyler Baze in the silks. Nice connections, but I simply need to see more effort.

 

So there you have it. As always I’m hoping you have an exciting day and find my analysis useful so you can make an informed decision for yourself at the windows.  I’m feeling it, are you ?

If you have any questions or anything to share, please scroll down and populate your comments, they are always very much appreciated.

~Geo Sette

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