Arkansas Derby: Cox Instructs Geroux To Be ‘More Aggressive’ Early With Caddo River

Brad Cox already has two horses ticketed to the Kentucky Derby in unbeaten champion Essential Quality and Mandaloun. Whether the 2020 Eclipse Award-winning trainer has a third will depend on the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) Saturday at Oaklawn.

Cox will send out Caddo River in the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby, which is Oaklawn’s fourth and final Kentucky Derby points race. A homebred for John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs, Caddo River got off to a rousing start on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, registering a record-breaking 10 ¼-length front-running victory in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Jan. 22 at Oaklawn in his two-turn, stakes and 3-year-old debut.

But in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles March 13 – Oaklawn’s third Kentucky Derby points race – Concert Tour, from post 7, beat favored Caddo River to the lead going into the first turn, controlled the pace throughout and cruised home by 4 ¼ lengths to remain unbeaten in three career starts. It was Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s record-extending eighth Rebel victory. Caddo River, keen early following a rail draw, finished fifth, beaten 6 ¾ lengths, after chasing Concert Tour on the outside to the top of the stretch.

Caddo River will try to reignite his Kentucky Derby hopes in the Arkansas Derby, a race Anthony has won a record three times (1980 with Temperence Hill, 1987 with Demons Begone and 1992 with Pine Bluff).

“Post-wise, it’s very similar, I guess, to last time,” Cox said Tuesday afternoon. “We’ll see how things go. We’re going to try and be a little bit more involved early – more aggressive, I think, if we can. That’s really the tactics we’re going to take into the race. We’ll see if that works any different.”

The projected six-horse Arkansas Derby field from the rail out following Tuesday’s post-position draw: Super Stock, Ricardo Santana Jr. to ride, 122 pounds; Caddo River, Florent Geroux, 122; Hozier, Martin Garcia, 118; Get Her Number, Francisco Arrieta, 122; Concert Tour, Joel Rosario, 122; and Last Samurai, Jon Court, 118.

Probable post time for the Arkansas Derby, which will be televised live by NBC Sports Network, is 6:41 p.m. (Central). It goes as the 12th of 13 races. First post Saturday is 12:02 p.m., with the infield open, weather permitting.

Caddo River has had two published workouts, both against stablemates, since the Rebel. He went a half-mile in :48 March 27 and 5 furlongs in 1:00.20 last Saturday. Caddo River’s workmate last month, Joe Frazier, returned to win an entry-level allowance sprint for 3-year-olds last Saturday at Keeneland. Caddo River breezed last weekend with Night Ops, a multiple stakes-winning older horse.

“Not really anything other than what we’ve done in the past,” Cox said. “Just maintain fitness, really, I guess would be the thing. He’s a good work horse. Probably more of a free-running horse. I kind of think we found that out last time. Florent kind of took ahold of him up the backside and that didn’t really seem what he (Caddo River) wanted to do.”

The Arkansas Derby will offer 170 points to the top four finishers (100-40-20-10) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. The 1 ¼-mile race is limited to 20 starters, with starting preference given to the top 18 point earners in designated races like the Arkansas Derby. The top point earners on the European and Japan Road the Kentucky Derby will receive invitations.

Concert Tour earned 50 points for his Rebel victory and ranks No. 13 on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard compiled by Churchill Downs. Stablemate and Rebel runner-up Hozier (20 points) is No. 26, Grade 1 winner Get Her Number (10) is No. 33, Caddo River (10) is No. 36 and Rebel fourth Super Stock (9) is No. 41. Get Her Number finished seventh in the Rebel.

Caddo River will need a strong showing Saturday, likely first or second, to join Essential Quality and Mandaloun in the Kentucky Derby starting gate for Cox May 1 at Churchill Downs.

“I don’t think we want to run in the Derby unless we feel like we have a real shot,” said Cox, who has never had a Kentucky Derby starter. “Ultimately, that’s going to be up to Mr. John Ed. On my end, I want to go into the Derby, if we’re fortunate to have three horses, with three live shots, not what I feel like are two live shots right now and another horse just kind of getting in the way. I think the talent’s there for him to be a Derby horse. He needs to show up and show that he can swim in the deep end of the pool on Saturday.”

Anthony, among the most successful owners in Oaklawn history, has had a resurgence in recent years. He has had six Kentucky Derby starters, the last coming in 1993 with Prairie Bayou, who finished second as the betting favorite. Anthony also had the favorite in 1987 with Demons Begone, who bled shortly after the start and didn’t finish the race. Pine Bluff ran fifth in the 1992 Kentucky Derby. Both Prairie Bayou and Pine Bluff did win the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown.

Cox won Oaklawn’s second Kentucky Derby points race this year, the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 27, with Essential Quality, who earned an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion 2-year-old male of 2020. Essential Quality remained unbeaten (5 for 5) in the $800,000 Blue Grass Stakes (G2) last Saturday at Keeneland. Mandaloun won the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) Feb. 13 at Fair Grounds.

Essential Quality (140 points) and Mandaloun (52) rank No. 1 and No. 12, respectively, on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.

The post Arkansas Derby: Cox Instructs Geroux To Be ‘More Aggressive’ Early With Caddo River appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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