Arkansas Derby Features Haves and Have-Nots

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Since 2004, two Arkansas Derby (G1) winners (American Pharoah and Smarty Jones) and one runner-up (Super Saver) have gone on to wear the roses. Half a dozen more Arkansas Derby entrants have hit the board in Louisville.

Several colts in Saturday’s $1 million Oaklawn Park feature appear to have the credentials to keep that record of success intact, while others look underqualified to lead a parade… or, for that matter, be in a parade at all.

In addition to two graded stakes winners — Classic Empire and Malagacy — who will likely vie for favoritism, the Arkansas Derby also includes six entrants that have only bested maiden foes and two that have never won a race of any kind.

Below is a look at the field:

1-ROCKIN RUDY (12-1 morning line odds)
Won his debut in an $80,000 maiden claiming affair before transferring to the Doug O’Neill barn and finishing second in two turf sprints at Santa Anita. The blinkers come off today (a productive move for O’Neill) and the son of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion Midshipman goes a distance of ground for the first time today (another productive move for O’Neill). Some things to like, but a lot of questions too.
FAIR ODDS: 12-1 

2-CLASSIC EMPIRE (8-5)
It’s been a tough year for the two-year-old champion, as he has battled a foot abscess, back issues and the lack of desire to work out (I know the feeling some days). But after some time at Winding Oaks Farm in Ocala, Fla., trainer Mark Casse has seen enough from the son of Pioneerof the Nile to put him back on the Kentucky Derby trail. He certainly has the ability to win on Saturday and is aided by the fact that the field isn’t very deep. That said, I’d insist on a decent price.
FAIR ODDS: 7-2

3-SILVER DUST (20-1)
Has improved in every start and another step forward puts him solidly in the mix this weekend. He’s a contender at what promises to be a big price.
FAIR ODDS: 12-1

4-PETROV (12-1)
I suspect Saturday’s distance of 1 1/8 miles might prove to be Petrov’s kryptonite.
FAIR ODDS: 15-1

5-GRANDPA’S DREAM (30-1)
Son of Shackleford’s two best races have been on the engine and there’s a lot of pace in Saturday’s Oaklawn feature (the projected early speed ration is a -8).
FAIR ODDS: 30-1

6-LOOKIN AT LEE (15-1)
He’s the kind of plodder that often hits the board in the Arkansas Derby, but I’d be surprised if he visited the winner’s circle this weekend.
FAIR ODDS: 15-1

7-SONNETEER (15-1)
Maiden was second to Malgacy at 112-1 in the Rebel Stakes (G2) on March 18. The Calumet Farm homebred fits with these from a speed and pace figure standpoint, but, after his big effort last time, I suspect he’ll be an underlay on Saturday.
FAIR ODDS: 20-1

8-ROWDY THE WARRIOR (30-1)
Son of Warrior’s Reward has no early speed and, well, not a lot of speed, period, but he could benefit from what should be a brisk pace.
FAIR ODDS: 40-1

9-UNTRAPPED (6-1)
Trainer Steve Asmussen puts blinkers on the son of Trappe Shot after a wide, big-and-hang effort in the Rebel. He’ll need to improve, but he appears to be as game as they come.
FAIR ODDS: 6-1

10-ONE DREAMY DUDE (50-1)
This guy makes Heinz Ketchup look fast. He’d definitely be a surprise.
FAIR ODDS: 50-1

11-CONQUEST MO MONEY (15-1)
Ran huge in the Sunland Derby (G3) and his pace figures are among the best in the field. Despite his low profile connections, he stands a big shot this weekend.
FAIR ODDS: 9-2

12-MALAGACY (2-1)
He’s very talented, but brings a lot of question marks into Saturday’s race. He’s lightly raced, breaks from the far outside in a race with a lot of early foot and his two best Brisnet speed figures came in sprint races. At 20-1, I’ve got no issues with any of that; at 2-1? Well, that’s a different story. Proceed with caution.
FAIR ODDS: 2-1

Derek Simon
Derek Simon is the Senior Editor and Handicapper at US Racing.