Oaklawn Park Race 11 (Arkansas Derby 1st division) Highlight – 2 May
#1 Charlatan – Ridden by Martin Garcia and trained by Bob Baffert
Two starts—six furlongs and one mile, two romping wins with triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures! This son of Speightstown hasn’t seen the hind end of a competitor yet. Charlatan is the fastest in here, is drawn well, has controlling early speed and is trained by one of the all-time greats. He is by Speightstown and that sire is not especially known for producing distance runners, but there always are exceptions to the rule and this one seems ‘exceptional’ in many ways.
#2 My Friends Beer – Ridden by Declan Cannon and trained by Jeremy O’Dywer 30-1
He’s often in the money, but you can only play him underneath at best. Honestly, it would be a shock if he finished top 4.
#3 Mo Mosa Maker – Ridden by Kendrick Carmouche and trained by Michael Maker
See above. Mo Mosa Maker has very little chance, and probably shouldn’t be in this race.
#4 Gouverneur Morris – Ridden by John Velasquez and trained by Todd Pletcher
He’s a bit of a puzzle to this handicapper. He ran well to win first out and to be second to a freakish Maxfield in the Gr. 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. At three, he won a Tampa Bay allowance race at a very short price, where he was ridden hard from around mid-turn home. That led to an uninspiring fourth, five and one-quarter lengths behind division leader Tiz the Law. Everything considered, ‘The Gouv’ seems a grinder that needs to be asked for his best. He’d surprise me with a win, but he’s talented enough to hit the board.
#5 Jungle Runner – Ridden by Tyler Baze and trained by Steve Asmussen
Jungle Runner has been running poorly. His form is enough to discount him immediately, and that doesn’t even take into consideration the step up in competition.
#6 Shooters Shoot
#7 Wrecking Crew – Ridden by Flavien Prat and trained by Peter Miller
Following victory in a five-horse maiden race at Del Mar in July, this ridgeling son of Sky Kingdom has faced Grade 1 or Grade 2 foes, exclusively, in five starts. He’s managed a pair of seconds and a third in those races. His last two races have been poor, so he requires a real turnaround to be a factor in here.
#8 Anneau d’Or – Ridden by Juan Hernandez and trained by B D Wright
Before the season, this horseplayer was high on this colt’s 3-year-old chances. Off a freshman year that included a Golden Gate mile turf romp and a pair of graded-stakes second-place finishes, the sky appeared to be the limit. In his first start at three, this son of Medaglia d’Oro laid a huge even-money egg in the Gr. 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds. So, where are we now? Which Anneau d’Oro shows up Saturday? Will it be the one that finished second to champion Storm the Court in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and then was beaten a mere head by Thousand Words in the Gr. 2 Los Alamitos Futurity, or will it be the colt that checked in ninth of 11 in the Risen Star? Since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile hasn’t been a very productive race and Thousand Words hasn’t continued to improve, and since this fellow hasn’t done anything at three, we’ll have to make him beat us in here. Probably will use him in exotics as a ‘sanity’ play.
#9 Winning Impression – Ridden by Julien Leparoux and trained by Dallas Stewart
If it rains Saturday, this guy’s chances might improve. He’s got two wins over ‘sloppy’ surfaces. Unfortunately, he was disqualified from his latest triumph for drifting in. He’ll need to advance from that performance, but he’s in reasonable form and a big price, especially if it rains. Maybe a lower rung exotic inhabitant.
#10 Crypto Cash – Ridden by Corey Lanerie and trained by Ken McPeek
Here’s a real confirmed closer who’s passed at least one foe in the stretch in four out of five races. There’s not an abundance of speed in this race and the Oaklawn surface doesn’t really favor late runners, but this guy could pick up some tired critters late to round out exotic positions. Note a nice :59 2/5 work at Keeneland two works back. Also, trainer McPeek has a knack for having horses hit at big prices.
#11 Basin – Ridden by Ricardo Santa and trained by Steve Asmussen
Thought this one was the goods last out in the Oaklawn Stakes at nearly 7/2. Boy, was I wrong! Basin broke from the rail, saved ground in fourth most of the way, was shuffled a bit and then had no answer late. Positively, he was relatively close to an early hot pace and didn’t completely pack it in through the stretch…but still. Add that performance to a well-beaten third in the Gr. 2 Rebel Stakes and I sense a possible developing sophomore trend: close but no cigar. At two, he won two of three races (was beaten a mere nose first out), including the Gr. 1 Hopeful Stakes over a ‘sloppy’ Saratoga strip. The stable’s top jock takes over and you can expect Basin to be closer to the early pace, but an in-the-money finish is the best we see.
One to Beat:
#1 Charlatan – Because he will be such a short price to win, players must find another way to use him—perhaps as a ‘free bingo square’ in a multi-race wager, or as the first or second leg of a daily double or as the anchor in the lead-off spot of an exacta, trifecta or superfecta.
1: #1 Charlatan
2: #4 Gouverner Morris
3: #11 Basin
4: #9 Winning Impression
Oaklawn Park Race 13 Highlight (Arkansas Derby 2nd division) – 2 May
#1 Finnick the Fierce – Ridden by Martin Garcia and trained by Rey Hernandez
This guy is a trier who almost shocked the world at nearly 88-1 when second behind Silver Prospector in the ‘sloppy’ 2019 GR. 2 Kentucky Jockey Club. A troubled third in that race, a head back, was eventual Florida Derby winner Tiz the Law. ‘Finnick will be a big price in here and will need to do much better than he ever has before. If it rains, he moves up a bit.
#2 Saratogian – Ridden by Joe Talamo and trained by Rodolphe Brisset
He should be ignored for the most part. The ceiling is 4th place.
#3 Storm the Court – Ridden by Flavian Prat and trained by Peter Eurton
He’s the reigning 2-year-old champ but is zero for two starts at three. He was fourth in the Gr. 2 San Vicente behind winner #5 Nadal and third behind another Baffert player Authentic in the Gr. 2 San Felipe. Both of those races were decent tries and a bit better than his 2-year-old races. While the BC Juvenile has not produced any standouts this year, this guy has shown improvement. He’s a possible win candidate and a definite in-the-money use.
#4 King Guillermo – Ridden by Samy Camacho and trained by JC Avila
He upset the applecart last out with a stunning, nearly five-length victory at 49-1 in the Gr. 2 Tampa Bay Derby. That effort came out of nowhere and is almost too good to be believed. Going into the Tampa Bay Derby he had one win and a third in the Pulpit Stakes on the Gulfstream turf. With just three previous races, all at age two, he was eligible to improve but his forward jump was quite dramatic and, according to Thoro-Graph figures, on par with Arkansas Derby first-division heavy-favorite Charlatan’s initial performance. King Guillermo is not likely to run that well again, but he may not need to. Expect him to be kept close to the early pace if not on the lead, however, he won’t gallop along early as easily as he did last time. He could be used a bit defensively, but brave players will take stands against him.
#5 Nadal – Ridden by Joel Rosario and trained by Bob Baffert
Unbeaten in three starts, this son of Blame is not flashy and doesn’t win races by wide margins. He’s got speed and, like most Baffert runners, probably will use it. #4 King Guillermo, another possible speed horse, is drawn inside him. Nadal will attempt to outrun him into the first turn. #11 Wells Bayou also ought to show some speed from the outside, but probably will have to go faster than he prefers to keep up with Nadal. What happens out of the gate and in the first quarter mile will reveal a lot about how they finish in this race. If Nadal is able to clear this field in a reasonably comfortable fashion, he will be difficult to beat. However, if #4 King Guillermo or #11 Wells Bayou pressure him early, things could get interesting late. Nadal’s a fighter and has overcome pace-pressure to win before, but this is a mile and one-eighth against a much deeper bunch. Nadal has been working well at Santa Anita for Baffert with three bullets—two at five and one at six furlongs—and he won his only start over this track—Gr. 2 Rebel– in the slop last out. He’s the one to beat, but he’s nowhere near as dominant as barn-mate Charlatan is in the other division.
#6 Code Runner – Ridden by Stewart Elliot and trained by Steve Asmussen
He’s actually only finished first once in eight races; he was moved up to first via disqualification in another win. He doesn’t seem quite fast enough but is sharp. Still, he’s difficult to like.
#7 Silver Prospector – Ridden by Ricardo Santana and trained by Steve Asmussen
The most experienced runner in the field with nine starts, this son of Declaration of War had a troubled trip last out in the Gr. 2 Rebel Stakes when sixth behind #5 Nadal. Before that he won three of his most recent six starts—a maiden, the Gr. 2 Kentucky Jockey Club and the Gr. 3 Southwest Stakes. He has a sparkling bullet :59 flat work at Oaklawn for a Hall-of-Fame trainer not known to work horses fast. He usually comes from off the pace but doesn’t need to be far back in the field. He has one race out of nine that appears fast enough to win this, but three of his last four races have come over ‘off’ tracks. His best was over a ‘fast’ surface. Plus, his closing style could be effective if things get hot up front.
#8 Fast Enough
#9 Taishan – Ridden by David Cohen and trained by Ralph Becerra
Here’s an interesting runner that appears to be improving. He’s already had four starts at age three and comes back relatively quickly from a third-place finish in the ‘sloppy’ Oaklawn Stakes at a mile and one-eighth. Last out, he chased a hot early pace, made a sweeping early move to the lead and then faded to third nearly four lengths behind the winner and over three lengths behind runner-up #10 Farmington Road. That effort appears worse than it actually was. Taishan also has finished behind #7 Silver Prospector and #11 Wells Bayou. Those past performance lines will guarantee a decent price on this guy. He should be racing around fifth early, ahead of the deep closers and get first run at the leaders. Top jock Rosario departs for the mount on Nadal and replacement David Cohen knows his way around the Hot Springs oval. Taishan’s chances seem much better than the possibly 15-1 or more offered on the tote.
#10 Farmington Road – Ridden by Javier Castellano and trained by Richard Baltas
He’s never taken a backward step, according to Thoro-Graph figures, and is ranked just a bit behind favored #5 Nadal. Last out, blinkers were added and he finished in front of #9 Taishan in the Oaklawn Stakes where the hot early pace there favored his closing kick. Will he enjoy the same advantage Saturday? Maybe. Maybe not. That’s one reason they call it gambling. He only has a maiden win to his credit, but was a closing fourth in the Gr. 2 Risen Star, also at a mile and one-eighth. He’s been a bit unlucky in recent post-position draws—10 of 11 two back, 12 of 13 last out and 10 of 11 here. His connections are impeccable and further improvement is not impossible. He’s a legitimate in-the-money player.
#11 Wells Bayou – Ridden by Florent Geroux and trained by Brad Cox
This winner of three of five starts last out enjoyed a perfect, front-running scamper over foes in the Louisiana Derby at a mile and three-sixteenths. Jockey Florent Geroux asked him for speed out of the gate and rated him expertly. This time things will be a bit different early. If Wells Bayou is to take control of this race early, he will need to outrun #5 Nadal and #4 King Guillermo and that won’t be easy. His last two races fit figure-wise but this pace scenario is not as attractive. #7 Silver Prospector was able to nail Wells Bayou near the finish of the GR. 3 Southwest Stakes two races back. Don’t like this one much on the ‘win’ end, but he has to be respected in exotics as he’s been first or second in four-out-of-five.
One to Beat:
#5 Nadal – early pace battle decides everything. If he makes a relatively easy lead, he will be tough. If he sits just off #4 King Guillermo, he should be able to overhaul that one. If #4 King Guillermo and #11 Wells Bayou force him to go too fast early, the race will set up for an off-the-pace type.
Should Run Well:
#9 Taishan – Could outrun his huge odds. It appeared that he couldn’t get a mile and one-eighth last out, but that may have been a result of an early move into a hot pace. At a big price it’s worth taking a chance on the latter being the case. He should get first run on the closers.
Others Worth Attention:
#3 Storm the Court – ‘Gotta knock the reigning champ out to win the crown. He’s been on the ropes twice this year, but still is in there fighting. Respect.
#7 Silver Prospector – If the pace gets hot up front, he will be running late.
#10 Farmington Road – Another who will be closing at the end. He’s made steady improvement for a trainer who’s great at developing young horses.
1: #5 Nadal
2: #7 Silver Prospector
3: #9 Taishan
4: #3 Storm The Court