Friday, April 13, 2018

Handicapper's Corner: Arkansas Derby (G1)

Arkansas Derby Last Chance for Romance

By: Laurie Ross, IMTBreds

The Arkansas Derby (G1) is the last major prep race for 2018 Kentucky Derby Contenders. True, the Lexington Stakes, run on the same day, will offer minor qualifying points, but Oaklawn Park’s Grade 1 event will be the make or break race for those looking to solidify their position on the Derby leaderboard.   

Nine colts led by Rebel Stakes (G2) hero Magnum Moon will enter the starting gate for the 1 1/8 mile contest.


The Favorites

Magnum Moon — he’s passed every test and can sit on or off the pace. By Malibu Moon out of an Unbridled’s Song mare, the Pletcher trainee shouldn’t have an issue with 9F, but I didn’t like how he was all over the track at the end of the Rebel Stakes, bearing out, then moving back in. Since he has only 3 starts under his girth, maybe it was inexperience, but he didn’t do it in his previous race. Magnum Moon had a fun, bouncy gallop over the Oaklawn dirt a few days ago and was looking good.

Quip  Has a solid middle-distance pedigree, by Distorted Humor out of a daughter of Indian Charlie. He’ll be tested by Magnum Moon. Originally slated for the Bluegrass, Quip was instead pointed to the Arkansas Derby after Baffert decided to keep Justify home. Could upset the race.

Solomini — Does his best when he’s closer to the pace. He made up ground in the Rebel but didn’t change leads while chasing the Moon. The son of Curlin is quirky, but always a contender.

Upset Potential
Tenfold — has the pedigree to run all day. He’s by Curlin out of a Tapit half-sister to Donegal Moon (G3 Pegasus, 8.5F). His second damsire is Giant’s Causeway and his 3rd dam is 1995 champion grass mare Possibly Perfect. With only a maiden and allowance victory under his girth, Tenfold is still figuring things out. He was stubborn in his last race, sticking his head in front and staying there. Would have been nice if he’d drawn off, but a win is a win. He could surprise and pay tenfold your bet.

Exotics Plays
Combatant — always second or third best. 9F could be at the top of his range, but his running style suggests that he could surprise if the pace falls apart. He’ll be fighting it out down the stretch.

Dream Baby Dream — has a miler’s pedigree, but his grinding late-running style has him passing tired horses to get a piece of the dream. If they go fast early, he could hit the board. Shades of Whitmore and Suddenbreakingnews. Exotics, in a dream.

Beautiful Shot — Was stuck in rush hour traffic the entire way in the Gotham, then had to slam on the breaks to avoid a crash. Arroyo wrapped him up after that. He’s been keeping good company in California and with a decent ride, has a shot to pick up a check. Exotics, if you’re feeling beautiful.

Not Today
Plainsman — This son of Flatter seems to be a steady, one-paced sort and likes this track. Unfortunately, that one pace is slower than the pace expected here. Maybe he’ll hold on to complete somebody’s lower exotics. Not mine, but somebody's.

Machismo — Nice pedigree for the distance, but he’s not up to this level of competition. The quick turn around and Quartarolo’s 0-10 record in graded stakes tells me Machismo really isn’t.  Pass.

Front-running speed rarely holds up in the Arkansas Derby. In the last decade, only four horses won either on the lead or while pressing the pacesetter. In the last five years, only American Pharoah won on the lead.

Longshots usually hit the board in the Arkansas Derby. Only three of the last ten favorites stood in the winner’s circle. Additionally, only two of the last ten winners had a victory in their previous start. Yes, I’m leaving Magnum Moon off my top four selections, but he’s certainly a contender. Can Steve Asmussen pull off the trifecta with Tenfold, Combatant and Dream Baby Dream?

#3 Tenfold (10-1)
#5 Solomini (2-1)
#9 Combatant (6-1)
#8 Quip (9-2)

This is a tough betting race. None of the lower priced favorites have neon red flags that would cause a bettor to look elsewhere. I don’t like that Magnum Moon bears out at the end of his races. That’s my preference, and thus, I left him off my top-four selections.  However, we aren’t limited to a top four when we bet, so I’ll include him plus a couple of late-running bombs underneath, ‘cause they like to hit the board at Oaklawn. In 2014, Danza shocked the field and paid $84.60 – and he was trained by Todd Pletcher.  Who’s Todd Pletcher?

$100 Virtual ThoroFan Funny Money
$0.10 Superfecta Key: #3/ #1, #4, #5, #6, #8, #9 = $12.00
$0.10 Superfecta Key: #5/ #1, #3, #4, #6, #8, #9 = $12.00
$0.10 Superfecta Key: #8/ #1, #3, #4, #5, #6, #9 = $12.00
$0.10 Superfecta Key: #6/ #1, #3, #4, #5, #8, #9 = $12.00
$5 WPS #3 (4-1+ odds) = $15
$5 WPS #1 (4-1+ odds) = $15
$22 to go wild on the rest of the card.

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