Equibase Analysis: Likely Pace Scenario Could Help Farmington Road Upset Arkansas Derby

The biggest race in North America on the first Saturday in May this year isn’t the Kentucky Derby, which has been moved to the September 5, the first Saturday of that month. Instead, we have a very good pair of big races in the form of split divisions of the Grade 1, $500,000 Arkansas Derby, which was split because 22 horses wanted to run in the race. Each division offers 100 points to the winner on the Road to the Kentucky Derby system, with 40 to the runner-up, 20 to the third finisher and 20 to the horse which ends up fourth.

The horses and connections hoping to succeed in Saturday’s second division of the Grade 1, $500,000 Arkansas Derby will have to beat likely betting favorite Nadal to do so. Nadal won one of the two divisions of the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn on March 14, leading from start to finish and earning a 101 Equibase Speed Figure. One race prior to that, in February, Nadal earned an even higher figure, 107, when winning the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes. However, the San Vicente was a sprint run at the distance of seven furlongs. Not only did Nadal earn a lower figure when stretching out to two turns for the Rebel, he was also tiring late in the stretch and losing ground to a fast closing horse in Excession.

Perhaps it was the faster than average early pace which caused Nadal to tire late, but this division of the Arkansas Derby may be run no differently than the Rebel, since Wells Bayou (100 figure) led from start to finish to win the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby last month. From an extreme outside post, Wells Bayou will likely have to try to get the lead from the start, perhaps at any cost, in order to not be wide going into the first turn. Another horse likely to try for the early lead is Storm the Court, who posted the 45 to 1 upset in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall when leading from start to finish. In his two starts this year, Storm the Court did not get the lead in the early stages, but that does not change the fact he appears to be a need-the-lead type. In addition to those three horses, Saratogian and Taishan may go for the lead from the start or take up a stalking position behind the horses who do lead in the early stages.

Given the likely faster-than-average early pace scenario, Farmington Road could easily improve off of his runner-up effort in the Oaklawn Stakes last month. The Oaklawn Stakes served as a local prep for the Arkansas Derby after the Derby was moved to this date. In that race, Farmington Road added blinkers for the first time and after lagging in last of 13 early rallied strongly to miss by a half-length at the wire. Two races before that, Farmington Road earned a career best 100 Figure, then 94, then 95. The pattern suggests he is improving once again and considering his late kick should be benefited by a contested early pace, Farmington Road could pass the field to win this division of the Arkansas Derby.

King Guillermo posted the 49 to 1 upset when winning the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby in March. Perhaps he shouldn’t have been disregarded by bettors as much as he was, because King Guillermo had earned 105 and 103 figures in his two previous races. Both were on turf and in 2019, but in one of them he finished third to Sole Volante in the Pulpit Stakes, who two races later won the Sam F. Davis Stakes on dirt, suggesting King Guillermo might do the same thing. Considering his effort in the Tampa Bay Derby earned a 110 figure which is even better than the 107 and 101 figures Nadal earned in his two recent stakes wins, King Guillermo must be considered a legitimate contender to win division two of the Arkansas Derby.

Silver Prospector proved he belonged at the level one race before the Rebel when he won the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes in February. Earning a career-best 102 figure in that race, Silver Prospector then regressed and finished sixth in the Rebel. However, before the Southwest, Silver Prospector had finished fourth, so it may be his pattern is to run a winning race after a poor race. If that occurs in the Arkansas Derby, Silver Prospector could be a factor as well.

As mentioned previously, both Nadal (101 best route figure) and Wells Bayou (101 best route figure) are proven at the level

Win Contenders:
Farmington Road
King Guillermo
Silver Prospector

The rest of the field, with their best representative Equibase Speed Figures, is Code Runner (89), Fast Enough (104), Finnick the Fierce (91), Saratogian (76), Storm the Court (106) and Taishan (98).

Arkansas Derby (Division 2) – Grade 1
Race 13 at Oaklawn Park
Saturday, May 2 – Post Time 7:43 PM E.T.
One Mile and One Eighth
Three Year Olds
Purse: $500,000
TV: Fox Sports 1, TVG and NBC Sports Network 6 – 8 PM ET

Leading the first division is Charlatan, undefeated and untested in two races to date. Both wins were earned leading from start to finish and he should have an easy lead once again in this race as there aren’t any other horses likely to take him on in the early stages for fear of costing themselves a chance at success, or at least some points. Charlatan earned a career-best 108  Equibase Speed Figure winning his most recent race, which is the best figure earned by any horse in the field, and he could improve off the effort in his third career start. However, Charlatan is stretching out to one mile and one-eighth as well as running in a stakes race for the first time, while others have experience at the distance or at this level.

Anneau d’Or is one of those as he was the runner-up by a head in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November. Missing by a neck one month later in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity to prove his Breeders’ Cup effort was no fluke, Anneau d’Or took three months off and finished ninth in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes but was trying blinkers for the first time. With the equipment removed for Arkansas Derby, it’s very possible Anneau d’Or can return to his form of last fall and if he does that might be good enough to win this race. One more thing Anneau d’Or may have going for him is his pedigree for this distance as his sire is Medaglia d’ Oro, and he is out of a Tapit mare. Per a STATS Race Lens pedigree query, sons and daughters of Medaglia d’Oro have the most wins in dirt route stakes races at nine to 10 furlongs of any other sire of entrants in the Arkansas Derby field.

Gouverneur Morris is proven at the level based on his runner-up effort in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity last October. After skipping the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November to prepare for his three year old campaign, Gouverneur Morris returned to win at a mile and 40 yards in February. One month later in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, Gouverneur Morris finished fourth of nine but in spite of that lower finish improved to a career-best 104  Figure. Although the sire of Gouverneur Morris (Constitution) has not had many horses run to date, one of those is the undisputed leader of the division and a horse who has won stakes at this distance, Tiz the Law. Gouverneur Morris is making his third start off a layoff and is on a pattern for an even better effort which could be good enough to win this division of the Arkansas Derby.

Win Contenders:
Anneau d’Or
Charlatan
Gouverneur Morris

The rest of the field, with their best representative  Equibase Speed Figures, is Basin (89), Crypto Cash (89), Jungle Runner (85), Mo Mosa (87), My Friends Beer (89), Shooters Shoot (97), Winning Impression (89) and Wrecking Crew (100).

Arkansas Derby (Division 1) – Grade 1
Race 11 at Oaklawn Park
Saturday, May 2 – Post Time 6:29 PM E.T.
One Mile and One Eighth
Three Year Olds
Purse: $500,000
TV: Fox Sports 1, TVG and NBC Sports Network 6 – 8 PM ET

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