Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Arkansas Derby

Oaklawn Park
Saturday April 16th 2011
Name: Arkansas Derby Grade: I
Purse: $1,000,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 1/8 Miles, Dirt, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

Caleb’s Posse
Elite Alex
The Factor
Sway Away
Truman’s Commander
Dance City
J.P.’s Gusto
J W Blue
Saratoga Red

Historically the Arkansas Derby has showcased a few of “my favorites” for the Triple Crown.

Champions such as:

1. (2004) Smarty Jones – KY Derby & Preakness

2. (2005) Afleet Alex – Preakness & Belmont Stakes
(also father to Elite Alex & Sway Away)

3. (2007) Curlin – Preakness

Florida Derby winner Dialed In remains a little spotty with his past performances for my taste – (however the Florida Derby has showcased horses like Barbaro and Big Brown – so I’m definitely taking a hard look at Dialed In).

Also with news coming out of New York that Uncle Mo has a slight health issue –

I feel that an Arkansas Derby victory for The Factor will definitely make him a favorite for the Triple Crown.

However after watching Upset Saturday last week….the task of winning the Arkansas Derby certainly isn’t a foregone conclusion.

For the bulk of these horses this will be a rematch of the Rebel Stakes – a race that featured The Factor pushing an early lead and finishing the final furlongs with enough strength to earn a trip to the Winner’s Circle.

Following The Factor in the Rebel –
2nd  (#1) Caleb’s Posse
3rd  (#9) Archarcharch
4th (#12) Saratoga Red
5th  (#11) J W Blue
6th (#6) Sway Away
and 7th  (#10) J.P. Gusto

Making a quick turn around from the Louisiana Derby (Mar. 26th) – (#2) Nehro (2nd place) and (#3) Elite Alex (4th place) look to improve their graded earnings – and possibly secure a spot in the Kentucky Derby.

For (#1a) Alternation, (#7) Truman’s Commander, and (#8) Dance City this will be their first graded stakes endeavor.

And finally there is Sam Davis Stakes winner (#6) Brethren – who enters the Arkansas Derby after a disappointing 3rd place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby.

As I look at the line-up for this Saturday – I don’t hold much hope for any of the horses to the right of Sway Away (meaning the horses numbered 7 – 12).

I haven’t seen any evidence that these horses will be able to rally late as well as Sway Away and certainly Caleb’s Posse – so waiting until the last furlongs to make a big push will only be effective if Sway Away and Caleb’s Posse hit traffic or come out flat.

I also don’t foresee these horses (#7-#12) bolting to the front and giving a significant challenge to The Factor, Nehro and Brethren – these three will most likely separate from the pack early and settle in as close to the rail as they can – meaning any of the horses outside of these three will have to go at least 3 or 4 wide in the first turn. And for those “outside” horses (#7-#12) I just don’t see them having the speed or endurance to pull that off.

So I’m knocking them off my list – (which means you should probably bet on them with abandon).

The Factor is positioned beautifully in this Derby – unless he falters early I’m looking for him to enjoy an early lead – looking for a half mile just under 48 seconds – I also see Brethren just off his right shoulder – waiting to make a move – which could happen as early as the ½ mile or as late as the final turn.

Nehro has an interesting spot in this race – because he’ll have the opportunity to get right behind The Factor (or the early leader) and run along the rail until everything shakes out in the final turn. If The Factor and Brethren wear each other out in the first mile – and Nehro has an opening in the final stretch – he has a prime spot for the upset he “could” have had in the Louisiana Derby.

Of course should the early leaders take an impossible pace in the opening mile – Nehro will have some company with his late charge from Caleb’s Posse and Archarcharch.

I also think Sway Away has a chance to rebound in this race after a very disappointing Rebel Stakes….however I think this horse could either win this race or finish 9th --- currently he’s priced at 6-1 odds – I think at 8-1 odds you’d have to consider him worth a look.

Two horses that are priced “nicely” are Caleb’s Posse (10-1) and Brethren (10-1) – I think Caleb’s Posse will need help to win this race, but it’s certainly not out of the question.

And Brethren had a set-back in the Tampa Bay Derby – but if he regains his stride here, I think he contends from the very beginning of this race.

If you’re looking to “make” money in this race I think you bet against the 7-5 favorite The Factor – if someone pushes him too fast and too furious early – he’ll be vulnerable to a few very solid late charging horses (Caleb’s Posse, Sway Away, Nehro).

Also Brethren may find his giddy up again – and pass him in the final turn.

However as a fan of the Triple Crown – nothing would be more satisfying than to see The Factor win with conviction, leave the winner’s circle healthy, and then board a plane to Kentucky.

Closing Speed likes: The Factor, Nehro, Sway Away

To make your weekend swing a little - Jackie Wilson and Count Basie

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