Arkansas Derby and Lexington Review

13 Apr

By Lucky Kalanges

I really like this field in the Arkansas Derby. It’s competitive and there seems to be enough early speed in here to give some of the deeper closers a chance of at least hitting the board at boxcar odds. Throw in a high probability for rain all day in Hot Springs, and it could be a race in which the favorites Improbable (8/5) and Omaha Beach (2/1) are more vulnerable than their morning lines would suggest.

Of the two, I think the high probability of a muddy or sloppy track favors Omaha Beach far more than Improbable simply because the former already has proven he can dominate over a sloppy track, drawing off to win by nine in his maiden victory at Santa Anita on Feb. 2. Furthermore, his natural early speed should keep him out of the kickback whereas Improbable will be buried at the rail and is highly likely to take mud in his face almost immediately after they spring the gates open.

Looking at the replay, Omaha Beach really couldn’t have been more impressive. He didn’t need the lead, but made it without being asked until challenged in deep stretch by Game Winner, who returned to run second to stablemate Roadster last Saturday at Santa Anita. Given his ability to use his tactical speed and the prior nine-length win over the slop, he looks like the one to beat to me. Of the two favorites, I’m siding with him over Improbable, who is bred to like the mud, but hasn’t experienced it yet and might get the worst of it breaking from the rail.

The other logical contender is Long Range Toddy (5/1), who showed great poise in breaking on top in his division of the Rebel, then backing off to track from the rail as a three-way speed duel unfolded. He let Improbable make a five wide move to pass him, and then came off the rail in the stretch to run him down for the win. He benefits here from an outside post that will let Jon Court decide where to place him, and could keep him clear of kickback.

As I type now, the main track at Oaklawn is officially sloppy. Without knowing how the track is going to play and how each horse will handle the off track, I’m going to tread lightly in this one.

For a potential longshots, I am going to take a long look at #7 Galilean (10/1) who I think could get overlooked in the betting and ran a pretty good race last out, finishing third behind Long Range Toddy and Improbable. In that race, he broke a step slow, rushed to the lead and was caught in the middle of the three-horse pace duel up the backstretch. He won that battle and held on gamely for third, beaten only 2 1/4 lengths. With a cleaner break and an ideal stalking trip off the hip of expected pace-setter Gray Attempt (8/1), he might have a chance to outrun his odds today if he takes to the slop.

The only question is whether he takes outside pace pressure from Jersey Agenda (30/1), who has early speed but failed to make the lead last time out.

For closers to blow up the Trifecta or Superfecta, I’d look at Laughing Fox (20/1) who has the right to improve off a poor break last time out and Six Shooter (30/1) who has finished no worse than fourth in his last four starts, with 7 in-the-money finishes in 10 lifetime starts. He a pure plodder, but seems to come running every time.

Consideration for Win bets:

Long Range Toddy at 6/1 or better.
Galilean at 12/1 or better.

I’ll consider some small Exactas using Galilean top and bottom to both Long Range Toddy and Omaha Beach, in an effort to get an over-bet Improbable out of it.

I like Laughing Fox, Six Shooter and Country House in the third hole of the Trifecta or fourth hole of the Super.

A Quick Look At The Lexington

Local hero Anothertwistafate (2/1) is a standout from a speed figure standpoint with a pair of 94s in a field where only one other horse has broken 90. Owendale ran a 91 two starts back at the Fair Grounds. He’ll likely have to rate behind early speed again this time, as Knicks Go (15/1) and Zenden (6/1) will likely duel for the front from the opening bell.

There has been some steam that Knicks Go, who exploded the Keeneland toteboard in last fall’s Breeders’ Futurity at 70/1, is training well over his home track and might be ready to put his two previous clunkers behind him. If he can shake loose up front, he’ll have every chance to prove it.

The one horse I won’t be betting is the 2nd morning-line choice, Harvey Wallbanger (7/2). There’s just no reason to swallow a short price on one-run closer like him.

I don’t have a strong opinion in this one, so I’ll sit back and root for the Bay Area connections to land a spot in the Kentucky Derby.

Best of luck today everybody.

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