The Arkansas Derby is one of the last big races for three year old colts and geldings to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. A couple of horses in this field have pretty much solidified a spot in the Derby as they have earned enough career graded earnings, but there are several who need a win in the 2012 Arkansas Derby to have a chance at making the trip to Louisville. 2nd place might not be enough as this year the minimum amount could set a record. As of now, the 20th place horse sits with $250,000. Click the following link to view the current Graded Earnings List.
Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park – April 14 – 1 1/8 miles – Dirt
1. Cozzetti (KY) – Jose Lezcano – 118 – Dale Romans
2. Stat (KY) – John Velazquez – 118 – Todd Pletcher
3. Najjaar (KY) – Calvin Borel – 118 – Daniel Peitz
4. Jake Mo (KY) – Clifton Berry – 122 – Allen Milligan
5. Secret Circle (KY) – Rafael Bejarano – 122 – Bob Baffert
6. Isn’t He Clever (KY) – Robby Albarado – 122 – Henry Dominguez
7. Optimizer (KY) – Jon Court – 118 – D. Wayne Lukas
8. Atigun (KY) – Terry Thompson – 118 – Kenneth McPeek
9. Sabercat (KY) – Corey Nakatani – 122 – Steven Asmussen
10. Raconteur (KY) – Chiristopher DeCarlo – 122 – Todd Pletcher
11. Bodemeister (VA) – Mike Smith – 118 – Bob Baffert
Secret Circle – Trainer Bob Baffert
Not much negative about this Eddington colt after six career starts. He won the Inaugural Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint in November, as well as the Southwest Stakes (G3) and most recently Rebel Stakes (G2). His only blemish was a 2nd place finish to Out of Bounds in the one mile Sham Stakes (G3). The early knock on this horse was whether he could endure the longer distances. He’s done quite well at 1 1/16 miles. I don’t believe the additional 1/16 mile is going to affect him. Regular jockey Rafael Bejarano decides to stay on this colt as he has ridden the other Baffert entry as well.
Bodemeister – Trainer Bob Baffert
In just three starts, all in 2012, this Virginia bred colt has shown he can run with the big boys. After a runner-up debut on January 26, he came back to win a little less than a month later. That performance was oddly enough to make him the favorite in the San Felipe Stakes against the likes of Creative Cause, Liaison and Rousing Sermon. Depsite falling short by 1/2 length, he proved he is worthy of being considered a Derby contender. With just $60,000 of graded earnings, he will need to at least finish 2nd to have any chance of making the trip to Louisville next month. Veteran Mike Smith gets the mount.
Sabercat – Trainer Steven Asmussen
This colt sits in the Top 10 graded earnings list with $600,000 due to his win last November in the $1,000,000 Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes (G3). He didn’t race for four months. His return resulted in a disappointing 8th in the Rebel Stakes (G2) on March 17. He didn’t show anything during the race to make us believe he can beat the top horses. However, this race is not loaded with a lot of top talented horses. It could be a race where he runs big. He has one more race to prove his doubters wrong.
Optimizer – Trainer D. Wayne Lukas
Can D. Wayne make a return to the Kentucky Derby? He just might if this colt can repeat his Rebel Stakes performance. It’s been a roller coaster career despite only starting eight times. He won his maiden debut last August at Saratoga, then finished 2nd in the With Anticipation Stakes (G2). Both on turf. He was shipping to Keeneland and ran a promising 3rd in the Dixiana Breeder’s Futurity (G1) on the all weather surface. He finished one ahead of recent Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy. Over his next four races, he failed to crack the top three. That included 8th in the BC Juvenile (G1), 4th in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (Gemologist), 6th in the Smarty Jones Stakes and 9th in the Risen Star Stakes (G2). Given those four races, no one expected the big run he put forth in the Rebel. He possessed a solid late run that left him just 1/2 length behind Secret Circle. With the additional distance, this colt could notch his first ever graded victory.
Jake Mo – Trainer Allen Milligan
This horse seems to be getting better with each. Despite finishing 4th in the Rebel Stakes, he finished with a god rally that only left him 3 1/2 lengths behind Secret Circle. Prior to that, he made another late rally to get up for 2nd in one half of the Southwest Stakes (G3). The additional distance will be welcome for this colt as it seems he always runs out of real estate. He’s used to running on the Oaklawn track and that could give him a slight advantage.
Isn’t He Clever – Trainer Henry Dominguez
He’s shown he can compete in the lesser known stakes. Now it’s time to show if he can play with the big boys. His effort in the Sunland Derby (G3) was very good considering he lost to a good horse by just 3/4 length, he held the lead at one point down the stretch and they finished with a 1 1/8 miles time of 1:48.59. The 2nd fastest time from all Derby prep races. The Santa Anita Derby ran in 1:47.88 (I’ll Have Another). He has finished worse than 2nd just once and that was 4th in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita.
Stat – Trainer Todd Pletcher
We don’t know much about this colt. He ran two times last summer, breaking his maiden in July at Belmont Park, then finished a distant 2nd to Union Rags in the Three Chimneys Saratoga Special Stakes (G2) a little over a month later. He would be sidelined for almost six months. His return to the track came in a 4th place effort in an Allowance Optional Claiming $75,000 at Gulfstream Park on February 9. He broke out of the gate in the air and never seemed to recover. Pletcher ran him back in March and was successful in the same race winning by 7 3/4 lengths. His workouts haven’t been impressive and he’s never gone longer than a mile. If you’re looking for odds in this race and someone who could surprise, this would be your horse.
PREDICTION: It’s tough to go against Secret Circle as he is running so well. He could make it a trifecta himself by winning the Southwest, Rebel and Arkansas Derby all in the same meet at Oaklawn. Bodemeister and the way he dug in and almost defeated Creative Cause in the San Felipe Stakes shows that he is a fighter and will fight right to the end. It was a great Staes debut. If he can get on the front end without getting into a speed duel with Scatman, he will be tough to catch. Unlike the Blue Grass Stakes that is full of front runners, the Arkansas Derby is is the opposite. There are more late runners. It will be the two Baffert horses is in the end, but if I had to pick one horse that could challenge them it would be Isn’t He Clever.