It’s Arkansas Derby Day in Hot Springs at Oaklawn Park. The $1,000,000 Arkansas Derby (Gr. 1) is the final race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. A full complement of points is up for grabs with 170 in the Arkansas Derby. The top prize awarded is 100 points, which results in an automatic trip to Churchill Downs for the 147th Kentucky Derby. Placing 2nd is good for 40 points and will put somebody in the Kentucky Derby as well.
It’s not necessary to win the race to get into the Derby, top-3 will do for some horses, but for a horse like Concert Tour, he is looking to prove that he’s a champion runner. Bob Baffert has a good one in Concert Tour, but no guarantees for him in May. Along with the Arkansas Derby, there is also a small prep race at Keeneland with the running of the $200,000 Lexington Stakes (Gr. 2). The winner of that race will get 20 points.
There are three other stakes races at Oaklawn Park, including the $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (Gr. 3). A total of $2,971,000 in prize money is up for grabs across 13 races at Oaklawn on Saturday afternoon in Hot Springs. Head below for our free Arkansas Derby pick and Oaklawn Park selections at TheSportsGeek.
Post Time: 1:08 p.m. CST
Race 3 is a $93,000 event on the dirt covering 6 furlongs. Eight horses are expected to participate in this event, with Coppelia and Sianara in a good position to win this race. Coppelia is open to improvement after finishing 5th as a first-time runner on March 13. That was a $93,000 assignment, and while Coppelia remains in the same class, she has the talent to get better from here.
Coppelia has been showing up strongly in morning workouts. She was timed at 47.40 and 47.80 seconds in two recent trips at 4-furlongs. For a $250,000 horse, expect a lot more out of her than we saw in her debut on March 13. It’s possible that she goes from 5th to 1st in the first two races of her career.
Sianara moved up from 6th to 2nd in her first two outings. She was 6th in a $97,000 assignment on September 4 at Churchill Downs. In her next performance, Sianara placed 2nd behind Diggin Gold by ¾ lengths for a $82,000 purse. She was a more expensive purchase than Coppelia, with Sianara bought at auction in 2019 for $320,000. Expect her to continue to get better. A win in Race 3 isn’t out of the question.
Race 11 – Count Fleet Sprint Handicap
Post Time: 6:05 p.m. CST
The second biggest race at Oaklawn Park on Saturday is the $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (Gr. 3). This will take place on the main track with seven horses participating. C Z Rocket and Whitmore should have a productive 6-furlong trip. C Z Rocket is hot with wins in six of his previous seven entries. The only race C Z Rocket didn’t win was the $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (Gr. 1).
His most recent graded win was the $200,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes (Gr. 2) on September 27. C Z Rocket beat Flagstaff by a head at the wire. In most recent appearance, C Z Rocket was a winner of the $200,000 Hot Springs Stakes over Whitmore by a neck. Whitmore was a slight favorite in that race, and fell to C Z Rocket in a close one.
This is the third time in three races that Whitmore and C Z Rocket have met. Whitmore beat C Z Rocket in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on November 7 by 3 ¼ lengths. He is the defending winner of the Count Fleet Sprint in 2020. Whitmore won the $350,000 Count Fleet Sprint Stakes over Flagstaff by ¾ lengths in that race. In a rivalry race against equally talented C Z Rocket, getting the No. 2 post position for a 6-furlong race should help. Whitmore should win a close one at the wire.
Race 12 – Arkansas Derby
Post Time: 6:41 p.m. CST
Distance:1 ⅛ Miles
The Arkansas Derby is the biggest event on the schedule before the running of the Kentucky Derby. The million dollar race covers 1 ⅛ miles on the dirt and comes with 170 points. Caddo River and Concert Tour are on my watchlist in this race.
Caddo River, Hozier, and Concert Tour are all available for future betting to win the Kentucky Derby. Caddo River is a two-time winner in five events, with finishes of 2nd, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 5th in his career. In his biggest win to date, Caddo River won the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes on January 22.
Caddo River defeated Cowan by 10 ¼ lengths in an impressive display in that race. Caddo River was clear by 3 ¼ lengths at the ¾ pole, and then had a 6 length lead going into the stretch. That put Caddo River in excellent standing going into the $1,000,000 Rebel Stakes (Gr. 2) on March 13.
That didn’t go according to plan, with Caddo River faltering to 5th, while Concert Tour beat Hozier by 4 ¼ lengths. I can see Caddo River responding for a better run, though. It’s questionable if he can catch Concert Tour, who Baffert has in excellent form. Concert Tour is a three-time winner in three events.
He won the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes (Gr. 2) by a half length over Freedom Fighter, and then looked even better in the Rebel Stakes most recently to complete the hat-trick. Off a solid 6-furlong workout with a time of 1:12.80 at 6 furlongs, Baffert likely has Concert Tour ready to roll. I think he should be 3/5 on the morning-line, so there might still be some value at post time.