Oaklawn Park: The $1 million GI Arkansas Derby at 1 1/8 miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 100-40-20-10)
#1 Beautiful Shot (30-1): Huge longshot enters off a complete no-show in his seasonal debut in a weak renewal of Aqueduct’s GIII Gotham and once again gets thrown in the deep end in what is shaping up as a very solid GI. Tactical son of Trappe Shot is eligible to sit a nice stalking trip from this cozy draw, and Desormeaux has enjoyed considerable success on the Triple Crown Trail in recent years, but this ridgling won’t be adding to that ledger; easy toss.
#2 Machismo (20-1): Impressive Gulfstream Park MSW sprint winner stretched out and was an underrated fourth in their GII Fountain of Youth two back while passing a few late in a merry-go-round race, then didn’t run an inch last Saturday from a wide draw in Keeneland’s GII Blue Grass, so this is a tall ask on short rest. You wonder if this son of More Than Ready is sent today, as there’s not a lot of pure speed entered, and he did show a ton of it sprinting, but regardless, this just seems like Loooch and Quartarolo just want to be part of the party in Hot Springs; tough to tout.
#3 Tenfold (10-1): Undefeated runner is the first of three from Asmussen and will get the acid test today, as this is a big step up from the local group of optional-claimers he necked out last month. Versatile son of Curlin is sure bred to be a good one and is one of many who could find himself on the lead with an aggressive ride, but while the splits aren’t expected to be overly fast, they could be contested, which won’t help anyone’s chances in the lane. The other problem is that the top two in here seem to be the goods and have already proven themselves against legitimate horses, while this colt still has yet to reach that level, so let’s make him prove it before backing; tabbing for down the line.
#4 Dream Baby Dream (15-1): Deep closer took the overland route when a distant second in the GIII Sunland Derby in his last and will no doubt need a pace meltdown to get there today, though he figures to relish today’s 9 furlongs as much or more than anyone else in here. The second from Asmussen hasn’t really peaked in any of his last few starts, so it’s probably unlikely that it happens today, but if he does indeed get some hitting up front, he figures to be rolling late, at what is expected to be a big number, too; can spice up your exotics.
#5 Solomini (2-1): The main danger to Magnum Moon had a bit of an eventful trip in his seasonal debut when he was a well-beaten second in last month’s local prep, the GII Rebel, as he checked a bit off the far turn while inside and couldn’t get through while losing all chance. If you’re a fan, you thought this Baffert-trained son of Curlin would have been closer with a clear run, while his detractors will tell you he had the gap but didn’t have the run to get through, so like a lot of racing, it’s all in the eyes of the beholder. What isn’t up for debate is his class, as he did beat McKinzie (only to suffer a very suspect DQ) in the GI Los Alamitos Futurity to end his 2-year-old season, and the fact that he should move forward in a big way off the Rebel, plus they passed on last week’s GII Wood Memorial at Aqueduct to run in this GI, so from close range he figures to be primed; call to turn the tables.
#6 Magnum Moon (8-5): The obvious chalk made it 3 for 3 in the Rebel, when he sat a comfortable outside stalking trip and pulled away easily in the lane while answering the class question, too, giving Pletcher yet another legitimate Kentucky Derby contender. Malibu Moon colt is yet another in here who doesn’t really want to be on the lead but doesn’t really want to be too far off of it, either, so he figures up close again, though he could be wide for much of the running, which clouds things a bit. The other thing to think about is that he’s trying to do what Santa Anita Derby winner Justify is attempting, and that’s to win the Kentucky Derby without racing at 2, and the last time that feat was accomplished was by Apollo in 1882, so you’re allowed to ask just how tight the screws are today, with that huge hurdle looming in three weeks; second-best this time.
#7 Plainsman (30-1): Expected pace player dueled on the lead last time with Tenfold and tired, so while he’s not a win threat today, he is eligible to add some more fuel to the early fire, especially from this wide draw. Son of Flatter’s lone win came in a local MSW sprinting, and he’s yet to make a dent in three starts against winners for Van Meter, so it’s tough to envision him doing it today in this solid GI; pop and stop time.
#8 Quip (9-2): Heavy hitter surprised the GII Tampa Bay Derby in his seasonal debut when he pressed the pace and drew clear late for a breakthrough win for Brisset, who has quietly done a very nice job with this homebred son of Distorted Humor. Of course, they did go 49 2/5 that day, so it’s not like he had to use much energy early, and regardless of what you think of the splits today, they will be much, much faster than that crawl, so he’ll have to earn it from out here. There’s a confidence factor in this corner, too, because like Solomini and the Wood, this colt passed on the Blue Grass to get a shot in this GI, and if he moves forward off the Tampa try, he’s going to make his connections look mighty smart; price players are clearly landing here.
#9 Combatant (6-1): The last of the Asmussen trio was a non-threating third in the Rebel, which isn’t much of a surprise since he has little early speed and will always be at the mercy of the pace. The good news is that this wide draw isn’t a big deal because of his running style, and the expected contested pace could flatter him, especially since he stretches out a bit today, but in his four (stakes) starts against winners, he’s yet to make the winner sweat, so this 6-1 ML seems a bit low. On paper he’s close enough to the big guns that a breakthrough race would put him on the line, but it’s a little implausible to expect it to come today after six starts; using underneath, if at all.
#6 Magnum Moon
#4 Dream Baby Dream