Brian Nadeau’s Road to the Triple Crown: The Arkansas Derby, First Division

Oaklawn Park: The GI, $500,000 Arkansas Derby (first division) at 1 1/8 miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 100-40-20-10)

by Brian Nadeau

Brian handicaps at Capital OTB and Horseplayer Now, and he’ll offer analysis and selections of Derby points races, hoping to make us all a little money as we head to the Belmont Stakes. Follow him on Twitter here.

Charlatan at Oaklawn Park. OP photo.

#1 Charlatan (1-1): The next would-be king for Baffert enters off two laughers to start his career and now tackles stakes foes for the first time while shipping as well, though he goes for a barn that has made a living raiding these local 3-year-old preps on a yearly basis. Son of Speightstown passed the two-turn test when he won an AOC by a furlong at Santa Anita and looks as loose as can be in here, as he’s by far the fastest of the speeds and drew perfectly to boot. Detractors will say that he’s only beaten seven runners total in his two wins, and that he didn’t exactly run straight through the lane last time, but this is also the much weaker of the two divisions, and when the best horse also owns a big race flow edge, too, it’s usually name the score time; imposing.

#2 My Friends Beer (20-1): Stalker was a distant third in an AOC here last month for O’Dwyer in what was his local debut, and while that won’t make the favorite sweat here, it puts him firmly amongst a group hoping to pick up a few scraps in what isn’t that tough a race from top to bottom. Son of Stay Thirsty is bred to like this trip, and this post works, too, and it’s not like he needs to improve a ton off that last run to pick up a check; could spice things up underneath.

#3 Mo Mosa (30-1): Maker charge rallied from far back in his own AOC here last month when third to a few nice ones in a race that was run in the same time as ‘Beer’s split division, though he ran a tick slower. Uncle Mo runner is another that drew well, and he figures to pass a few in the lane, but that seems about his ceiling; tough to tout.

#4 Gouverneur Morris (9-2): Florida invader has built a bit of a following for Pletcher, even though on paper he’s been non-threatening in his two stakes runs, though they came at the hands of two colts that are on the Derby short list (Tiz the Law and Maxfield). Long-striding son of Constitution has a grinding style that should like the trip, and this figures to be a fairer race track than the one he encountered when fourth in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park last time, though chasing a loose 2-5 favorite isn’t ideal, either. While a win is hardly necessary in May of this quirky Derby prep season, he needs to break through in one of these to warrant the hype, and in his third start of the year, he gives every indication that he’s taking a big step forward today; looms the main danger.

#5 Jungle Runner (30-1): Huge longshot for Asmussen has been beaten 14 lengths or more in his last three stakes starts, which that means this Candy Ride (ARG) colt is way beyond his element here; get home safely.

#6 Shooters Shoot (8-1): SCRATCHED

#7 Wrecking Crew (20-1): Longshot from California has built a nice bankroll by running underneath in some major stakes, including a third at SA in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year, and enters off his seasonal debut when a distant fifth in their GII San Felipe, which was the best prep of the season so far. Son of Sky Kingdom has been tearing it up in the morning for Miller, and he should improve off his return, but the Juvenile was his only remotely fast run, and that heat has been the definition of a negative key race this year; midpack finish seems likely.   SCRATCHED

#8 Anneau d’Or (6-1): The trickiest of reads almost upset the Juvenile when second, beaten just a head, then backed it up with a huge second, beaten just a neck, to Baffert hotshot Thousand Words in the GI Los Alamitos Futurity to end his 2-year-old season, and therefore started this year on the tip of a lot of tongues. And then came the GII Risen Star at Fair Grounds, when he was a deserving even-money favorite, yet didn’t run an inch with blinkers-on and finished a no-show ninth, in an effort that left a lot of people scratching their heads. If nothing else, it’s good to see Wright forge on; the hood comes back off, and if this son of Medaglia d’Oro can regain his mojo, he’s a player here, but he sure didn’t make any friends in his first foray outside of California, and it’s tough to think that he can simply put that effort behind him and run a another smasher; tread very lightly here.

#9 Winning Impression (15-1): Price player goes for a Stewart barn that has had a lot of success with these types in Triple Crown preps in the past, and he was up in time to hit the line first (then was disqualified to fifth for drifting in the stretch) in a local AOC in the slop last month for West Point. Paynter gelding has certainly come to hand since getting to two turns and should be sitting midpack behind the speed and the chasers, which could put him in an envious position off the far turn when the real running begins. There’s little doubt that he’s looking way up at the top pair, but the rest of these aren’t much, and he might be getting good at the right time, so he’s got every right to cash a nice check here; can rally for a share.

#10 Crypto Cash (20-1): Closer heads outside of Kentucky for the first time and runs on the dirt for the first time since breaking his maiden in modest time at Churchill Downs in November for McPeek, so he’s another who needs to get better in a hurry if he wants to snag a check. Majesticperfection colt passed a few from the back to be a distant fourth on the Polytrack at Turfway Park in the Rushaway in March, so he can build off that seasonal debut, but that still won’t scare anyone here; not seeing it.

#11 Basin (8-1): GI Hopeful winner is by far the more accomplished of the two Asmussens, though his two local runs this year—his only two at two turns—leave a lot to be desired, as he was a distant third in the GII Rebel and then a very disappointing fourth in the Oaklawn Stakes. Those two efforts were even more worrisome since they came in the slop, the same track condition he got when he aired in the Hopeful by 6 1/2 lengths, which further lends credence to the thinking that this son of Liam’s Map is much more suited to one-turn; playing against.


#1 Charlatan

#4 Gouverneur Morris

#9 Winning Impression

#8 Anneau d’Or

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