Kentucky Derby 2016 Contenders: Arkansas Derby Video

The road to Kentucky Derby 2016 makes a final stop at Oaklawn Park in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on Saturday, April 16.

arkansas derby odds

The last race to offer 170 Derby points attracted a 12-horse field and G2 Rebel hero Cupid is the morning line favorite for trainer Bob Baffert.

Cupid is a lightly raced, $900,000 son of Tapit, and an impressive performance at Oaklawn on Saturday might make him the second choice in the Kentucky Derby behind undefeated 2-year-old champ Nyquist.

Graded Recaps (2016 Derby Points Races)

G1 Wood Memorial (4-9-16, 93 BSF): Racing on a muddy (sealed) surface, Outwork battled hard throughout and beat 81-1 maiden Trojan Nation by a head. Adventist closed well to edge Matt King Coal for the show. Post time favorite Shagaf was never a serious factor in 5th. The winner flattered stablemate and Tampa Bay Derby hero Destin. Matt King Coal set a pressured pace and ran well but failed to qualify for the Derby. I do not think that this was a strong Derby prep.

G1 Blue Grass (4-9-16, 91 BSF): The pace fell apart and Keeneland lover Brody’s Cause took full advantage in a solid 1-3/4 length score. He flopped in the productive Tampa Bay Derby but bounced back in a big way here. My Man Sam rallied from post 14 to edge Cherry Wine by a neck for the place. Zulu’s flop was not a big surprise. It took him quite some time to return to the work tab after the Fountain of Youth and he was not ready for the the Florida Derby so they chose this race instead. I think the FOY wore him out and not qualifying for the Derby is a very good thing for the lightly raced runner. The Top 3 are are all solid closers and could make some late noise if the Derby pace is hot but the Blue Grass speed figure was mediocre at best.

G1 SA Derby (4-9-16, 103 BSF): Exaggerator loves the mud and on this day he had no problem handling nine furlongs. He steadily advanced outside, blew by the early runners, and coasted home by 6-1/4 lengths. Mor Spirit seemed to be struggling with the sloppy (sealed) main track but he has no quit in him and ended up a clear 2nd. Uncle Lino stalked and was best of the rest in 3rd. Danzing Candy set a fast pace and was a fading 4th, beaten 13+ lengths. He dusted the top three in the San Felipe and may not have cared for the footing. Also, there were questions about his ability to ration his speed and he went too fast, too soon in this spot.

Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2016 Contenders

(1) MOHAYMEN (Tapit – Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union) mohaymen silks 2016

Trainer (Kiaran Mclaughlin) – Owner (Shadwell Stable)

Comments: The $2.2 million purchase lost some of his luster after a very disappointing effort in the G1 Florida Derby but he never looked happy, raced wide from an outer post, was not handling the wet surface, and had to be coaxed to keep up instead of cruising along like he usually does. I will toss-out his final Derby prep and look for him to bounce back on the first Saturday in May if he trains well in the coming weeks. His trio of 95 BSF’s put him squarely in the mix this year and I think he is capable of running faster based on how easy he won his stakes races prior to the Florida Derby. He still needs to run the fastest race of his life at Churchill if he expects to be competitive and I think he can and will be a much better horse under the Twin Spires. He is expected to ship to Churchill Downs to begin Derby preparations April 17. He maintains his #1 ranking, a spot he has occupied since I first started my 2016 Derby contender list more than six months ago.

Derby Points (80)  

(2) MOR SPIRIT (Eskendereya – Im a Dixie Girl, by Dixie Union) more spirit silks 2016

Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (Michael Lund Petersen)

Comments: I will admit that I was expecting a much better effort in the SA Derby and was fully prepared to move him to the top of my list but his 2nd behind runaway winner Exaggerator was not damaging in the grand scheme of things. His biggest strength is that nothing seems to bother him and he has been part of the Exacta in all seven of his starts. Another plus is his 2nd over wet footing in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill last fall. His one-pace, grinding style concerns me but the gem of consistency might be the most reliable of the Derby contenders. He stays put at #2, a spot he has occupied for more than five months.

Derby Points (84)

(3) NYQUIST (Uncle Mo – Seeking Gabrielle, by Forestry) Nyquist

Trainer (Doug O’Neill) – Owner (Reddam Racing LLC.)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:02.60 (22/28) at Keeneland on April 15.

Comments: After Mohaymen failed to fire, the 2-year-old champion had a very easy time of it on the front end against severely overmatched pace rivals in the G1 Florida Derby. I never like his one sprint/one route path to the Kentucky Derby and he will take more money than he should on the first Saturday in May. Many question his ability to get ten furlongs based on his pedigree and that might be the case but I just don’t think he is fast enough around two turns to win the Derby. His best career number was earned in the G2 San Vicente at seven furlongs earlier this year. He shipped to Keeneland to begin Derby preparations April 3.

Derby Points (130)

(4) EXAGGERATOR (Curlin – Dawn Raid, by Vindication) exaggerator silks

Trainer (Keith Desormeaux) – Owner (Big Chief Racing, LLC)

Comments: He made a big, premature move before flattening out in the G2 San Felipe but turned the tables on More Spirit and Danzig Candy in a visually impressive, rallying effort in the G1 SA Derby. He rolled through the mud last Saturday, rumbling past the wire more than six lengths clear and earning a solid 103 BSF, easily the best nine furlong stakes number so far. That is precisely why I did not jump ship after the San Felipe. He was too talented to jump to conclusions in regards to his true two turn ability after one less that ideal outcome. He has plenty of seasoning and foundation and I like the way trainer Keith Desormeaux has handled him this year in regards to distance progression (7f San Vicente, 8.5f San Felipe, 9f SA Derby). Kent Desormeaux was more patient with him last Saturday and his well-timed ride resulted in a strong finish in his final Derby prep. Blowout wet track wins are not frequently repeated under a different set of circumstances next time out and he stays put at #4 for the time being.

Derby Points (126)

(5) DESTIN (Giant’s Causeway – Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer) destin silks

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) – Owner (Twin Creeks Racing Stables, LLC)

Latest Workouts: 5f in 1:00.94 (1/2) at Palm Beach Downs on April 16. 5f in 1:01.04 (3/12) at Palm Beach Downs on April 8.

Comments: The improving Tampa Bay Derby hero was flattered when vanquished foes Outwork and Brody’s Cause returned to win the G1 Wood Memorial and G1 Blue Grass last weekend. He owns fine positional speed and is peaking at the right time but still needs to prove his worth away from the friendly confines of Tampa Bay Downs. His sheets-oriented connections were worried about a bounce so they decided to skip his final prep and train up to the Derby. He won the Tampa Bay Derby on March 12, returned to the work tab April 2, has never raced beyond a mile and a sixteenth, and the Kentucky Derby will be his first start in two months.

Derby Points (51)

(6) SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS (Mineshaft – Uchitel, by Afleet Alex)

Trainer (Donnie K Von Hemel) – Owner (Samuel F. Henderson)

Latest Workout: 4f in :48.40 (9/45) at Oaklawn Park on April 9.

Comments: He looked very good after a strong last-to-first score from post 13 in the G3 Southwest, his sixth exacta finish from as many starts up to that point. In his last start in the G2 Rebel Stakes on March 12, he was wide early from post 14, raced in traffic, briefly lost action, steadied, and missed 4th by a head in a troubled, inconclusive effort. He deserves another chance and drew post 4 (5-1 morning line) in the Arkansas Derby on Saturday, April 16. A show finish would put him on the bubble so he needs a top two finish to secure a Derby berth.

Derby Points (10)

(7) CUPID (Tapit – Pretty ‘n Smart, by Beau Genius)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, and Derek Smith)

Latest Workouts: 4f in :48.20 (24/54) at Santa Anita Park on April 12. 7f in 1:24.60 (1/3) at Santa Anita Park on April 6.

Comments: The late bloomer is getting good in a hurry and his improvement can be attributed to racing over a route of ground. He lost his first two sprint starts (finished 2nd Jan 9) and proceeded to easily graduate at a mile and a sixteenth Feb 7 and followed that up with a gritty prominent throughout score in the G2 Rebel Stakes March 19. He is the morning line favorite for the Arkansas Derby and could give Baffert a strong 1-2 Derby punch if he turns in another big effort at Oaklawn Park.

Derby Points (50)

(8) BRODY’S CAUSE (Giant’s Causeway – Sweet Breanna, by Sahm)

Trainer (Dale Romans) – Owner (Albaugh Family Stable)

Latest Workout: 5f in :59.82 (2/19) at Gulfstream Park on April 2.

Comments: The G1 Breeders’ Futurity winner proved once again that Keeneland is his favorite venue after a solid off the pace effort in the G1 Blue Grass. The G1 BC Juvenile show finisher threw in a clunker in his G2 Tampa Bay Derby return on March 12 but some horses do not handle the Tampa Bay surface and he bounced back as expected on April 9. He broke his maiden at Churchill so a return to Kentucky was definitely what the doctor ordered. The Blue Grass pace fell apart and the number did not come back strong so I will not move him back into the top five at this stage.

Derby Points (114)

(9) DANZING CANDY (Twirling Candy – Talkin and Singing, by Songandaprayer)

Trainer (Clifford Sise Jr.) – Owner (Halo Farms)

Comments: The sharp wire-to-wire San Felipe winner did not show the same brilliant form in the SA Derby. In the latter race, he was sent to the lead and faded badly in the mud. He whipped Mor Spirit and Exaggerator in the San Felipe but finished more than thirteen lengths behind that latter this time. What a difference four weeks and a longer distance can make on the Derby trail. Prior to the SA Derby, his biggest obstacle was his ability to relax and finish. Exaggerator clearly passed his test but not this colt. He is fast and talented but looks like a one-dimensional speed horse with stamina issues. He is better than his last and would appreciate a fast, speed favoring track but ten furlongs looks like a daunting task.

Derby Points (60)

(10) GUN RUNNER (Candy Ride – Quiet Giant, by Giant’s Causeway)

Trainer (Steve Asmussen) – Owner (Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimney Farms)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01 (5/12) at Churchill Downs on April 11.

Comments: He looked good in a pair ground saving, stalk and pounce wins this year in the G2 Risen Star and G2 Louisiana Derby. He did not run fast in either race but jockey Florent Geroux put him in the right spot and gave him every chance to succeed both times. His tactical speed and ability to get the jump on his opponents are big assets when it comes to a race like the Kentucky Derby but he will need to run quite a bit faster to be considered a serious threat to wear the blanket of roses.

Derby Points (151)  

(11) MO TOM (Uncle Mo – Caroni, by Rubiano)

Trainer (Tom Amoss) – Owner (G M B Racing)

Latest Workout: 4f in :48.40 (5/32) at Churchill Downs on April 13.

Comments: Everything went right to kick off his sophomore campaign in the G2 LeComte but he has become the poster child for bad racing luck ever since. He was a troubled 3rd in the Risen Star and an even more unlucky 4th in the LA Derby. Closers frequently find trouble but a pair of questionable rides by jockey Corey Lanerie did not help matters. He is very close in ability to Gun Runner but the latter has tactical speed and some quickness to help him avoid traffic woes. He has not run fast yet and the main reason he keeps getting into trouble is because he is not nimble enough to avoid it. He is due for some good luck but finding clear sailing on the first Saturday in May will not be easy.

Derby Points (32)

THE NEXT NINE: (12) Outwork, (13) My Man Sam, (14) Whitmore, (15) Shagaf, (16) Tom’s Ready, (17) Fellowship, (18) Lani, (19) Majesto, (20) Oscar Nominated

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