This Saturday is the last chance for many well-regarded horses to make the Kentucky Derby field. Graded earnings determine whether or not a horse will step onto the track in Louisville on the First Saturday in May to run for the roses.
The horses with the most graded earnings secure one of 20 spots in the starting gate under the Twin Spires. If your horse doesn't have enough graded earnings, then you could get shut out from running in America's most famous horse race. That makes this weekend's KD prep races ultra-important.
The drama surrounding the Arkansas Derby will be spectacular as Bob Baffert, Mr. Kentucky Derby himself, saddles one of his big guns in the race, Bodemeister. Bodemeister has to garner enough graded earnings in order to get himself into the field of 20. Baffert should have his star in the making cranked up, but will he be worth a bet?
Where: Oaklawn Park
Distance: 1 1/8 miles
Condition: Three-Year Olds
Atigun - - Fair Odds 20/1
He finished 11th and lost by 9 ¼ lengths to Secret Circle in the Grade II Rebel in his last. Atigun appears more suited for grass. The McPeek camp is grabbing for straws by throwing him in this race.
Cozzetti - - Fair Odds 16/1
The form is interesting, but he's obviously a tad below these in the speed department. The Romans' trainee was too far back in the Tampa Bay Derby, his first on dirt, and he did make a nice run to lose by only 3 ¾ lengths, but Secret Circle and Bodemeister are a huge step up for him.
Raconteur - - Fair Odds 5/1
The victory in the Private Terms Stakes, in a sweet time, signals that Pletcher might have this son of A.P. Indy exactly where he needs him to be. Pletcher and Dogwood Stables are going to go all out as this guy needs graded earnings to get into the Derby Field.
Isn't He Clever - - Fair Odds 7/2
I love the way that trainer Henry Dominguez has built this son of Smarty Jones's resume. He's taught him how to run in the lead and then how to lie behind the speed, make a big time move at the half mile pole, and then relax again before going for the victory. The horse appears to have push button speed, like what he showed in the Sunland Derby, making him a serious threat to win in Arkansas.
Stat - - Fair Odds 4/1
The step up from allowance foes to a Grade I can be daunting, Street Life couldn't pull it off going from winning a stakes race to running well in the Wood last Saturday, but trainer Todd Pletcher is arguably the best trainer in the world right now and Stat was sired by Unbridled's Song. The horse could turn into a monster at Oaklawn on April 14.
Najjar - - Fair Odds 10/1
He's got some talent, but he appears to be a late running son of Jazil who most likely won't be able to make up ground against horses like Bodemeister, Isn't He Clever, Stat and Secret Circle. Churchill Downs top jockey Calvin Borel takes the call. So, there is hope, but not a lot, in my opinion.
Bodemeister - - Fair Odds 9/5
The son of Empire Maker is definitely the real deal. Yes, Rafael Bejarano won't ride him in this race, but picking up Mike Smith is not a detriment to his chances. Maybe, Smith can get him to rate a bit. If he can, then Bodemeister should win this race by open lengths. He's too fast for any horse in this thing to keep up with. In fact, he might be too fast for any horse to keep up with on the First Saturday in May.
Sabercat - - Fair Odds 8/1
Steve Asmussen got enough graded earnings for this horse with the Delta Jackpot victory meaning that he's in the KD field. The problem is that he's going to get trounced come the Run for the Roses if he doesn't improve on Saturday. Watch for improvement or go ahead and mark him down as a possible no show on May 5.
Jake Mo - - Fair Odds 12/1
He could improve enough to make his presence felt. I'd definitely put him in any superfecta wagers, but like most of these in this race, improvement will be needed for a Top 3 finish. He was a one note horse in the Rebel, plodding along behind 4 lengths at the second call and then losing by 3 ¼ lengths at the end. It's doubtful that he'll show a sudden burst in the Arkansas Derby on April 14.
Optimizer - - Fair Odds 5/2
I didn't believe that this guy had a shot to win the Rebel, but there he was, losing by only three-quarter of a length to Secret Circle. If Secret Circle at 2/1 is fair odds, then Optimizer at 5/2 has to be considered fair odds as well, right? I believe that the Bodester is too much of a monster for either Optimizer or Secrete Circle to get to him, but D. Wayne's pony is a must use on Saturday and at Churchill Downs in three weeks, if he gets enough graded earnings.
Secret Circle - - Fair Odds 2/1
He was fantastic in the Rebel and all signs point to him running huge on Saturday. The only issue is which horse is better, Secret Circle or Bodemeister? I'm putting the likely chalk into the third slot since Optimizer figures to offer better odds, but I wouldn't be surprised if this guy runs on for an Arkansas Derby victory on April 14.
2012 Arkansas Derby Picks
Show: Secret Circle