Arkansas Derby (GI)

With the move of the Blue Grass, the Arkansas Derby has been left alone as the only major Derby prep three weeks out. This year’s edition is led by American Pharoah, who was ranked #2 in the rankings prior to the final preps. He’s been simply scintillating in his three stakes starts and overwhelms this field on speed. Here’s his never-in-doubt win in the Rebel:

He’s 1/2 on the morning line and, like Carpe Diem last week in the Blue Grass, is a fair bet for those willing to play dominating odds-on favorites.  He’s run three triple-digit Beyers in his career; no one else in field has run one. In addition, he’s proven over Oaklawn track with win in Rebel (was over wet track, however).

Far Right is likely to get some support. Outside of the Rebel (in which he sat out), the winter at Oaklawn has belonged to Far Right. Here’s his Smarty Jones:

And his Southwest Stakes:

Both visually impressive closes to be sure, but significantly slower than the races run by American Pharoah. The hope for Far Right’s supporters is a blistering pace, which would tire the front-running American Pharoah in the stretch. Yes, ir’s likely that the pace will be stronger than the Rebel, but it’s still far more unlikely that it would be so strong as to slow American Pharoah enough to permit the closing Far Right to catch him.

As for the others, Mr. Z had no real excuse in his last. He’s already peaked — he’s not fast enough to win here, and now he’s gone off-form. For those looking for a longer shot play, the lightly-raced Madefromlucky could very well move forward as he tries 9 furlongs for the second time. It would take substantial improvement, but that’s not impossible for any 3YO, especially a well-bred Pletcher-trainee this time of year. to give Todd Pletcher his third straight Arkansas Derby (2013, Overanalyze; 2014, Danza).

Also, don’t forget about the Lexington Stakes from Keeneland, which offers 10 qualifying points to the winner (the Arkansas Derby offers 100). Both Tiznow RJ and Divining Rod have points already, and with a win, may come close to qualifying for the Derby, if there are defections from the top 20.

Good luck and enjoy the races!