Oaklawn | Race 11 | Post Time 6:18 p.m. (CT) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs
The road to the Kentucky Derby concludes with the 82nd running of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, offering a total of 170 qualifying points to the top four finishers. This came up as one of the deepest races in the final round of preps, as four runners in this race appear likely to advance to Churchill Downs. Magnum Moon and Quip have already solidified their spots in the Kentucky Derby starting gate, whereas Solomini and Combatant require top-three finishes in order to book their tickets to Louisville.
The Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace despite none of the runners in this race absolutely needing the lead. The only horse with a running-style designation above “Tracker” in TimeformUS PPs is Quip (#8), who may find himself in a stalking position given his outside post position. Both Magnum Moon (#6) and Plainsman (#7) appear to be faster in the early going and are predicted to head out toward the front. Despite the pace characterization, this does not shape up to be a race where the pace collapses, as there looked to be more early speed in last month’s Rebel, which featured only a moderate pace. Therefore, a closer like Combatant (#9) may not receive the ideal setup that he needs.
Let’s go through the entire field:
#1, BEAUTIFUL SHOT (30-1): He was legitimately checked out of position rounding the far turn of the Gotham, but it’s unclear if he was actually going anywhere at that point. He’s hard to recommend off his prior form and appears to be an outsider in this tough spot.
#2, MACHISMO (20-1): His connections were waffling between this race and the Blue Grass, and it seems that they now intend to run in both. He was unable to be competitive there, and his chances appear to be just as hopeless a week later.
#3, TENFOLD (10-1): There’s obviously talent here, as he has earned respectable TimeformUS Speed Figures (115 and 112) in both of his starts. The horse he defeated in his allowance win, Navistar, is a good horse for Todd Pletcher and may eventually be bound for stakes company himself. I liked the way Tenfold rated behind horses last time and battled for the win once Navistar came back at him in midstretch. However, he’s now stepping up to face a whole new class of horses and will need to produce a career-best effort to merely crack the trifecta.
#4, DREAM BABY DREAM (15-1): This closer couldn’t keep pace with allowance company earlier at this meet. While he did finish second at a big price in the Sunland Derby, that race was falling apart at the end. He would need a total pace collapse in order to get a piece of this, and that doesn’t appear likely.
#5, SOLOMINI (2-1): If you’re taking an optimistic view of his Rebel, you could argue that he had to get started somewhere after experiencing a setback earlier in the year. He finished second against some nice horses after briefly having to pause and alter course at the top of the stretch, showing that he can still be effective in this division’s top races. However, he will need to run better here to overtake winner Magnum Moon. Before getting steadied, Solomini had gotten an ideal ground-saving trip. He was grinding away for second at the end of the race but didn’t really separate himself from the rest.
Solomini is likely to finish somewhere in the top three positions here and advance to the Kentucky Derby. However, it may be asking a lot of him to improve enough in four weeks to turn the tables on Magnum Moon.
#6, MAGNUM MOON (8-5): I’m not one to endorse short prices, but it’s hard to build a strong case against this undefeated runner. He seemingly has all the necessary tools. He has speed but is versatile enough to stalk the pace. Unlike Solomini, he possesses a good turn of foot and can quickly open up a couple of lengths on a field, as he displayed in upper stretch of the Rebel. Magnum Moon will have to negotiate an extra furlong this time, but he hasn’t displayed any signs of stopping in his prior two-turn efforts.
With the Kentucky Derby just three weeks away, Pletcher does not need Magnum Moon to win this race in order to advance. However, it would certainly be nice to go into that race with an undefeated horse. I won’t be betting him to win at a very short price, but I’m a fan of this horse and expect to see him produce another conclusive effort here.
#7, PLAINSMAN (30-1): He figures to be a pace factor, but he’s yet to run fast enough to suggest he can stick around late.
#8, QUIP (9-2): How short of a price can you stomach on this horse after you (probably) missed the boat last time at 19-1? There’s no denying that he’s talented, as he ran a respectable 113 TimeformUS Speed Figure in that Tampa Bay Derby win and easily defeated Blue Grass runner-up Flameaway. However, he did have some things in his favor that day. Despite the fact that there appeared to be plenty of speed in that race, a fast pace never materialized. Rather, the early fractions were quite slow (indicated by blue color-coded pace figures in the PPs). Quip was able to take advantage of that soft early pace and finish strongly.
His connections scratched him out of the Blue Grass, which drew a crowded field, and they got luckier with the post-position draw this time. He’s the kind of horse who probably doesn’t want to get caught in behind runners, so he should work out the same outside stalking trip that he got in the Tampa Bay Derby. I just think he’s going to have to run better than he did that day to beat the likes of Magnum Moon. Furthermore, as noted at the top, he doesn’t need to win this race in order to move on to Louisville. I’ll use him underneath.
#9, COMBATANT (6-1): Poor Combatant has been terribly unlucky at the post-position draws for each of his last three starts. He’s broken from slots 9 or 10 in his last two starts and again gets assigned the outside position here. This horse has admirably picked up checks in each of his stakes attempts and has put himself in position to get into the Kentucky Derby with another top-three finish here. However, it will not be easy with three formidable rivals drawn to his inside. Ricardo Santana Jr. will have to take him to the back of the pack and hope to get as lucky as he did in the Rebel. That day, he was able to make a rail run around the far turn after working his way inside on the backstretch, and he nearly got past Solomini for second late. I wonder how far he ultimately wants to go, as it feels like others will appreciate the stretch-out to nine furlongs more than he will. I’ll be using him underneath once again.
This is not a race in which I see a great deal of value to exploit. Magnum Moon (#6) is a deserving favorite, and I can’t come up with solid reasons for trying to beat him. I respect Solomini (#5) and think he is the second-best horse in this race, but I won’t be surprised if Baffert does not have him fully cranked for a top effort here in just his second start of the year. Combatant (#9) should once again be a candidate to inject some value into the exotics.
Trifecta: 6 with 5,9 with 3,5,8,9
Trifecta: 6 with 3,8 with 5,9