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

Oaklawn Park: The GI, $500,000 Arkansas Derby (second 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.

Farmington Road. Photo courtesy Oaklawn Park

#1 Finnick the Fierce (15-1): One of several longshots was second, then elevated to first after he was troubled late, in a local AOC in the slop last month, and tab what Winning Impression does in the other division, as he got to the line first last time. Son of Dialed In drew well and should trip out, and Hernandez has had a nice year with limited stock, but this is the far tougher of the two divisions, so he’s really up against it; in way too deep.

#2 Saratogian (50-1): SCRATCHED

#3 Storm the Court (6-1): Reigning 2-year-old champion on the basis of a shocking win in the BC Juvenile at Santa Anita has had trouble backing that score up, as he was fourth to today’s favorite Nadal in their GII San Vicente sprinting, then a distant third in their GII San Felipe in March, though that was the definitive prep of the season so far. Tactical son of BC Mile winner Court Vision might be stretching his rubber band mighty thin at this trip, though he’s got the speed to make things difficult on the others that want to be involved early, and make no mistake, there are more than a few of them, so while he’s not on the short list of potential winners, he’s still going to play a key role here; know him early, not sure about late.

#4 King Guillermo (3-1): The wildcard absolutely freaked in his dirt debut when he romped in the GII Tampa Bay Derby in very fast time at an astonishing 49-1 over the well-regarded Sole Volante, in a breakthrough effort after a trio of encouraging turf runs to start his career. Avila wisely passed on Gulfstream Park’s GI Florida Derby, and now this son of Uncle Mo comes in off eight weeks rest, which will alleviate the concerns of the bounce brigade, and his last two works say that he hasn’t lost any of his zip. And sure, the 49-1 is long gone, but he’s going to be better than this 3-1 ML, so if you’re a believer, then there’s no reason you can’t get on the bandwagon one race late; huge chance.

#5 Nadal (5-2): Expected stiff favorite for Baffert won March’s local prep, the GII Rebel, in extremely game fashion in the slop after dueling hard early, in what was his two-turn debut and first start away from SA. Well-bred son of Blame is one of several in here that want to mix it up on the front end, and while he’s likely the fastest of all of them, they crawled home in the Rebel, and note that Excession, who he held off by a three quarters of a length, was 82-1 and didn’t even come back today, so you’re allowed to pick that effort apart a bit. The added ground could be a bit tricky, too, especially with a ton of pace on both sides, a very short price, and a much tougher field than the one he just faced, so you almost have to play against him; willing to make him prove it.

#6 Code Runner (50-1): The first of two for Asmussen enters off a very slow N2L win at Sam Houston, which was a career-best for this son of Honor Code but also makes him likely to bring up the rear in this field and further hints that this was yet another entered in the hopes that they split the race; easy toss.

#7 Silver Prospector (10-1): The far more accomplished and fancied of the two Asmussen runners has a huge fast track win in the local GIII Southwest two-back sandwiched between two duds over off tracks, so you know his connections are hoping for dry land today. Son of Declaration of War should be stalking in midpack, which is the right kind of trip in here, and, while he was beaten 12 lengths by Nadal when sixth in the Rebel, all you need to do is look at the Southwest to know that he’s a player if he fires his shot. Whether he will do so is the question, but if he gets his track, you’re going to get the right risk-reward to find out; expecting a biggie if Mother Nature cooperates.

#8 Fast Enough (6-1): SCRATCHED

#9 Taishan (15-1): Versatile sort wired a sloppy AOC here two-back, then got run off his feet early in the Oaklawn Stakes over the track and distance last time before making a middle move into the heat and into the lead before ultimately flattening out late to be third. Twirling Candy colt is another that wants to be involved early, which suggests that he’ll be pressing or chasing from the outside, and if that didn’t work last time against tons lesser, it sure won’t work today in this sterling field; can’t endorse.

#10 Farmington Road (12-1): Stretch-runner for Pletcher lagged too far back in the Oaklawn but closed furiously from 13th and last to be 2nd, and if he didn’t drift in in deep stretch, he might have gotten there, instead of finishing a half-length back. Son of Quality Road has been under the radar a bit but his fourth in Fair Ground’s GII Risen Star two-back was sneaky good and showed last time this trip will be right up his alley, so there are a lot of positives in this corner. And that’s before we even mention the race flow, which figures to be hot and contested and set him up in the lane, at a distance that he will like a lot more than most of these; mows them all down in the lane.

#11 Wells Bayou (7-2): Lookin At Lucky colt is another of the speed brigade, as he enters off a wire-to-wire win for Cox in the GII Louisiana Derby, at 1 3/16 miles, which should give him a lot of foundation for this slightly shorter trip today, though that race was a merry-go-round, which takes a bit of shine off the effort. The post won’t help here, as this wide draw means that he’s committed to going in some way, shape, or form, so he’ll be pressing everyone inside that wants to roll early, and that won’t help his or their chances late. Respect his talent, his trainer, and his big win at a longer distance, but there’s a lot going against him here, at an underlaid price to boot; taking a strong stand against.

 Selections:

#10 Farmington Road

#7 Silver Prospector

#4 King Guillermo

#5 Nadal

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