We are approaching Arkansas Derby day this weekend at Oaklawn Park. It'll be a big Saturday of racing with four graded stakes races to get off the ground. The total purse money available is $2.1 million, plus there will be 100 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby awarded to the winner of the Arkansas Derby. Without further adieu, let's preview the action.
The $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) — 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, Three-year-olds. Winner receives 100 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby. Post Time is 6:41 PM CT.
CONCERT TOUR has been pegged the morning line favorite at even money. He faces the same foes he dusted last time out in the Rebel Stakes, except for one new shooter, LAST SAMURAI who is 15-1. CONCERT TOUR will be seeking his fourth consecutive win with red hot rider Joel Rosario in the irons. HOZIER is the second entrant for trainer Bob Baffert and is 3-1 on the morning line. He finished a game second to the top favorite in his last race. HOZIER ran great considering he was moving up from a Maiden Special Weight race to face graded stakes talent. Note that his sire PIONEER OF THE NILE took a few races to mature before his talent evolved. HOZIER's late kick could be much stronger in his second class test. CADDO RIVER at 7-2 will try to redeem himself after his disappointing effort last time out. He was eager to roll under jockey Florent Geroux but when they got to the stretch, he was out of gas. To his credit, he ran his fastest speed figure to date over this Oaklawn Park surface.
The $500K Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) — 6 furlongs, Dirt, Three-year-olds and upward. Post Time is 6:05 PM CT.
The top two favorites are WHITMORE at 9-5 and CZ ROCKET at 2-1. They are set to clash after finishing 1-2 last time out in the Hot Springs Stakes with CZ ROCKET the victor. Both horses are making their second starts off their respective layoffs. Note that WHITMORE is a three-time winner of this race. NO PAROLE at 9-2 will break from the one-hole. He comes off a decent fourth place effort in the Costa Rising Stakes. STRIKE POWER for trainer Steve Asmussen is also in the mix, coming off an impressive Allowance Optional Claiming score where he earned a triple digit Equibase Speed Figure 110. It took a 111 speed figure to win last year's edition.
The $400K Oaklawn Mile Stakes — 1 mile, Dirt, Four-year-olds and upward. Post Time is 4:49 PM CT.
The 5-2 favorite is BY MY STANDARDS who will try to rebound from his previous two losses. He was given four months to rest, but has fired big off a layoff in the past; he's responded with triple digit Equibase Speed Figures in his comeback race. RUSHIE at 3-1 will make his first start since his 7th place effort in the Breeder's Cup Mile. He already registered a win over the Oaklawn track last year while going shorter. WELL'S BAYOU is the third choice at 4-1 for trainer Brad Cox. WELL'S BAYOU is searching for his first win since his Louisiana Derby (G2) victory in May 2020. To his advantage, he's performed well over this Oaklawn surface. He earned his fastest speed figure on this track when he ran second in last year's Southwest Stakes (G3).
The $250K Carousel Stakes — 6 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies and Mares, Four-year-olds and upward. Post Time is 2:55 PM CT.
The oddsmaker predicts a two-horse race between FRANK'S ROCKETTE at 7-5 and EDGEWAY and 9-5. FRANK's ROCKETTE is making her second start off a layoff. She won her comeback race, the American Beauty, at this very track, and should be even sharper this time around. What a consistent filly she is: 7 wins and 4 seconds from 12 starts. She'll have to contend with rapidly improving EDGEWAY for trainer John Sadler. EDGEWAY has improved since her first bout with FRANK'S ROCKETTE in the Purple Martin Stakes, wherein she finished third. She comes off a smart six furlong Allowance Optional Claiming score where she earned her fastest speed figure to date. Yes, she's stepping up in class but she's fit and ready to roll. She turned in a sharp 4F workout in 47.20, the third fastest of 84 workouts at that distance. CASUAL, the 4-1 choice from the Steve Asmsussen barn, seeks her 4th win from 8 starts. She finished a fast-closing second to KIMARI last time out, and we all saw last weekend how good KIMARI is. CASUAL should enjoy the six furlong trip, where she's currently 2-for 2.