The last major prep race for the May 6th Kentucky Derby will be contested at Oaklawn Park Saturday April 15th. The $1 Million Arkansas Derby will be the 11th of 12 races on the card, and will go to post at 7:18 PM. Fans can watch & wager the action at either of the two new Off Track Betting Centers in Richmond — at Breakers Sports Grille (9127 W. Broad Street) or at Ponies & Pints downtown (110 N. 18th Street). Virginia residents can also bet on line via TVG.com, XPressBet.com, TwinSpires.com and NYRABets.com. Here’s a race preview courtesy of The Paulick Report.
Classic Empire, the 2016 Eclipse Award winner as outstanding 2-year-old male, drew the number two post position and was installed the 8-5 favorite in a field of 12 going postward in Saturday’s $1-million Arkansas Derby on closing day at Oaklawn Park. The 81st running of the Arkansas Derby, a Grade 1 event at 1 1/8 miles, will be run as the 11th race on a 12-race card and is scheduled for 7:18 p.m. (EDT).
Oaklawn Park’s premier race for 3-year-olds is the last of six North American preps awarding 100 points to the winner on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, with 40 points for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth. The UAE Derby in Dubai awards the same number of points.
Classic Empire, with just one 2017 start – a disappointing third in Gulfstream Park’s G2 Holy Bull on Feb. 4 – since winning the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Nov. 5, currently sits 21st on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, with 32 points. There will be a maximum of 20 starters in the Derby.
John Oxley’s Pioneerof the Nile colt has had some mental and physical issues this winter but appears to be training well for Mark Casse since shipping to Winding Oak Farm, an Ocala, Fla., training center, in mid-March. He had been temperamental both during training hours and when he shipped from the Palm Meadows training center to Gulfstream Park for the Holy Bull. Foot problems complicated Classic Empire’s schedule earlier this year. Julien Leparoux will be in the saddle.
Sumaya U.S. Stables’ unbeaten Malagacy, who shipped to Oaklawn from Palm Beach Downs in South Florida to win the Rebel Stakes and earn 50 Derby points to rank 12th on the leaderboard, drew the outside 12 post and is the 2-1 second choice in the morning line. Trained by Todd Pletcher, who has five of the top 20 Kentucky Derby point earners, Malagacy is a son of Shackleford who broke his maiden at first asking at Gulfstream Park Jan. 4, then won a Feb. 12 allowance race prior to his victory in the March 18 Rebel. Multiple Eclipse Award winner Javier Castellano rides.
The complete field for the Arkansas Derby, from the rail out:
1-Rockin Rudy: Owned by Reddan Racing and trained by Doug O’Neill, the Midshipman colt is coming off a second place finish in a turf sprint at Santa Anita. He’ll be ridden by Mario Gutierrez. 12-1
2-Classic Empire: Owned by John Oxley, trained by Mark Casse and ridden by Julien Leparoux. 8-5
3-Silver Dust: Owned by Tom Durant, trained by Randy Morse and ridden by Corey Lanerie, Tapit colt ran fifth in the Rebel behind Malagacy. 20-1
4-Petrov: Owned by Rialto Racing Stables, Southern Springs Stables, trained by Ron Moquett and ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., Flatter colt was fourth in the Rebel and second before that in the G3 Southwest Stakes. 12-1
5-Grandpa’s Dream: Owned by Wayne Scherr, trained by Chris Hartman and ridden by Alex Canchari, Shackleford colt broke his maiden last out at Oaklawn Park in his fourth start. 30-1
6-Lookin At Lee: Owned by L & N Racing, trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Luis Contreras, Lookin At Lucky colt twice finished second in a pair of 2016 graded stakes (the G3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs and G1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland), coming from far off the pace. He was sixth last out in the Rebel. 15-1.
7-Sonneteer: Owned by Calumet Farm, trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by Kent Desormeaux, Midnight Lute colt was second, beaten two lengths by Malagacy, in the Rebel. He has yet to win in nine starts. 15-1
8-Rowdy the Warrior: Owned by Robert Zoellner, trained by Donnie Von Hemel and ridden by Luis Quinonez, Warrior’s Reward colt has not won since breaking his maiden last Sept. 22 at Remington Park. 30-1
9-Untrapped: Owned by Michael Langford, trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Mike Smith, Trappe Shot colt was third in the Rebel and second in the G2 Risen Star Stakes, earning him enough points to rank 20th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. He adds blinkers in the Arkansas Derby. 6-1
10-One Dreamy Dude: Owned by Muddy Waters Stable, trained by Jack Van Berg and ridden by Geovanni Franco, First Dude colt is winless in six starts. 50-1.
11-Conquest Mo Money: Owned by Judge Lanier Racing, trained by Miguel Hernandez and ridden by Jorge Carreno, Uncle Mo colt was second to Hence last out in the G3 Sunland Derby after three successive victories at the New Mexico track. 15-1
12: Malagacy: Owned by Sumaya U.S. Stables, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Javier Castellano. 2-1.