The Oaklawn racing department is expecting between 10 and 12 runners for Saturday's $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1), including winners of the split final major local prep, the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 16.
Post positions for Saturday's $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) will be drawn at noon Wednesday in a public event to be held on the first floor of the Grandstand, with the race offering 170 points to the top four finishers (100-40-20-10) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. The draw is open to the public.
Expected to run in the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby are Galilean (Flavien Prat to ride), Gray Attempt (Stewart Elliott), Improbable (Jose Ortiz), Long Range Toddy (Jon Court), Omaha Beach (Mike Smith), One Flew South (Calvin Borel) and Six Shooter (David Cohen). Other possible starters include Country House and Roiland, the fourth and sixth-place finishers, respectively, from the Louisiana Derby.
Long Range Toddy won the first division of the Rebel, beating heavy favorite and previously unbeaten Improbable by a neck. Omaha Beach won the second division of the 1 1/16-mile race by a nose over juvenile champion and previously unbeaten Game Winner.
In addition to Long Range Toddy, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen could start Jersey Agenda, Laughing Fox and Tikhvin Flew.
A flight carrying Southern California-based horses for the Arkansas Derby, including Omaha Beach and Improbable, is scheduled to arrive Tuesday. Florida-based horses running in the Arkansas Derby and other Racing Festival of the South events are to be flown to Arkansas Wednesday.
The Arkansas Derby card also features the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older horses at 1 1/8 miles and the $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap for older horses at 6 furlongs.
Expected starters for the Oaklawn Handicap include Quip and Rated R Superstar.
Quip won the $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and ran second in the Arkansas Derby last year for trainer Rodolphe Brisset. Rated R Superstar won the $350,000 Essex Handicap March 16, the final major local prep for the Oaklawn Handicap.
Whitmore, who was assigned top weight of 123 lbs., will be shooting for his third consecutive Count Fleet victory. The 2018 Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up is scheduled to face multiple stakes winner Mitole, who was assigned 121 lbs., for the first time.
First post Saturday is 12:35 p.m. (Central).
Two more Festival races will be run April 14 – the $750,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles and the $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses at 1 1/16 miles. These races will be drawn Thursday, April 11.
Early probables for the Apple Blossom include Chocolate Martini, assigned 116 lbs., Escape Clause, assigned 117 lbs., Midnight Bisou, the 122 lb. highweight and Wonder Gadot, assigned 118 lbs.
Midnight Bisou won the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 16, the final major local prep for the Apple Blossom. Wonder Gadot beat males in the first two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown last year, including the $1 million Queen's Plate.
The Festival begins Friday with the $500,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles. Post positions were drawn Saturday morning. The projected 12-horse field from the rail out: Cosmic Code, Jon Court to ride, 117 pounds; Filly Joel, David Cohen, 117; Irish Mischief, Stewart Elliott, 117; Lady Apple, Ricardo Santana Jr., 117; Destiny Over Fate, Walter De La Cruz, 117; Super Tap, Orlando Mojica, 117; Kiffle, Alex Canchari, 117; Motion Emotion, Mike Smith, 117; Brill, Florent Geroux, 117; Orra Moor, Luis Saez, 117; K P Slickem, Tyler Baze, 117; and Oxy Lady, Declan Cannon, 121.
Destiny Over Fate completed major preparations for the Fantasy by working a half-mile in :52.60 after the first renovation break Sunday morning for trainer Jesse Cruz and owner Ron Paolucci. The track was rated sloppy. Cruz, 25, has never had a starter in an unrestricted stakes race since saddling his first horse in 2017. Cruz and Paolucci will also be represented by Kiffle.
Beginning Monday morning, the track will be open to only Racing Festival of the South horses for the first 15 minutes after the first break to renovate the racing surface.
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