We’re back at Oaklawn Park on Saturday evening as the Arkansas venue hosts a 14-race card which includes the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby and the Oaklawn Handicap.
The action gets underway from 18:00, and our man on the trading floor Mark Underhill has cast his expert eye over the meeting for us.
Arkansas Derby, First Division
The first Saturday in May would normally be the day of the Kentucky Derby, but this year that race has been postponed until September due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, there is still a chance to see some of the top US three-year-olds in action with Oaklawn Park having rescheduled their Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, which is usually held in April, to fill the vacant slot in the calendar.
This year the 9f dirt contest for three-year-olds has been split into two divisions with both carrying a $500,000 purse and valuable points towards Kentucky Derby qualification.
Bob Baffert, who has won this race twice before, including with subsequent Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in 2015, trains the favourite in both divisions. His unbeaten Charlatan looks set to be sent off odds-on from stall one in the first division at 23:29.
Charlatan has only won two minor contests at Santa Anita so far, but it is the way in which he won them that has been so impressive. He scored by 5¾l on debut and followed that up with a win by 10¼l last time.
His main rival in the market is Todd Pletcher’s Gouverneur Morris who has won two of his four career starts and finished second in the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in October.
Arkansas Derby, Second Division
The second division of the Arkansas Derby is scheduled for 00:43 on Sunday morning and looks to be the stronger of the two divisions on paper.
Baffert’s unbeaten colt Nadal should be sent off favourite as he bids to follow up a ¾l win here in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes back in March, a race that Baffert also won with American Pharoah prior to his Arkansas Derby win in 2015.
Nadal’s rivals include Storm The Court, who won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but has been beaten on both of his starts this season, including when he finished behind Nadal in February’s Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita.
A bigger challenge to the favourite could come from King Guillermo who ran out a shock 4¾l winner of the Grade 2 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby in March when last seen.
The other feature race on Oaklawn Park’s valuable card is the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap which is due off at 00:04 and looks a hot contest with eight of the 14 declared runners having won on their most recent start.
John Sadler’s Combatant won the prestigious Santa Anita Handicap on his last start and that victory has taken him past $1 million in career prize money.
Others that will be towards the head of the market are Mr Freeze, who finished second in the Pegasus World Cup back in January and Improbable, a Grade 1 winner as a two-year-old.
The latter is bidding to become Baffert’s first winner of this race although his chances won’t be helped by a wide draw.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication.