By Richard Rosenblatt
Calling all Kentucky Derby contenders!
This is it. The Arkansas Derby (G1). A last big chance to collect enough qualifying points to get into a 20-horse maximum field and Run for the Roses.
Win the race and you’re in with 100 points; run second and you’re likely in with 40 points; run third or fourth, and pick up 20 or 10 points, and it may be enough to boost your previous point total.
There’s been no rush to Oaklawn Park for the $1 million race, and that’s unusual. A field of six – equaling the second smallest field in the long history of this Derby prep – is entered. It could be an indication that most believe the good, the not so good, and pretenders have already been determined by 13 preps run between Feb. 13-April 3.
Or maybe it’s because six-time Kentucky Derby winner and three-time Arkansas Derby winner Bob Baffert has the two favorites in unbeaten Concert Tour (50 Derby points) and Hozier (20 points).
Add Caddo River and Get Her Number (10 points each), and it would seem like the odds of a surprise horse rising up on Saturday are just too high.
The TV plan
(All times are ET)
Nonetheless, NBCSN and Fox Sports’ America’s Day at the Races will have you covered from start to finish, not only with the Arkansas Derby (post time 7:41 p.m. ET, race 12), but the ‘other’ final Derby prep, the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland (post time 5:30 p.m., race 9).
Here’s the coverage: FS1 will televise live racing from 1-3 p.m., then FS2 takes over from 3-8 p.m. NBCSN focuses on the Arkansas Derby, with live coverage from 7-8 p.m.
Early lineup for Kentucky Derby TV coverage
For those planning ahead, here’s an early look at the live coverage plans for the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on Friday April 30, and the Derby on May 1.
Oaks Day: NBCSN will televise the Oaks and undercard races with coverage from 12-6 p.m. Livestreaming is available on NBCSports.com and on the NBC Sports app.
Derby Day: NBCSN kicks off coverage from 12:30-2:30 p.m., before the racing switches over to NBC from 2:30-7:30 p.m. Livestreaming is available on NBCSports.com and on the NBC Sports app.
And when you tune in, there will be fans in attendance at Churchill Downs after last year’s race was run in September and with no fans due to COVID-19.
Churchill Downs officials said reserved seating is limited between 40-50% capacity, while general admission tickets are limited to 25-30% capacity.
$1 million Arkansas Derby (G1)
Post time: 7:41 p.m., race 12
The 85th edition will have its smallest field since 1949 when five ran; the last time six ran was 1992, with Pine Bluff the winner.
Concert Tour, winner of the Rebel (G2) last month, is 3-for-3 and the even-money favorite, with stablemate Hozier the second choice. Caddo River, trained by Brad Cox, looks to rebound after a fifth-place finish in the Rebel.
$500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3)
Post time 7:05 p.m., race 11
A 6-furlong matchup featuring Eclipse Award-winning sprinter Whitmore versus rival C Z Rocket in a field of seven. These two warriors split their last two meetings – Whitmore winning the BC Sprint (G1), C Z Rocket edging Whitmore in the Hot Springs Stakes on March 13. Whitmore goes for win No. 4 in the Count Fleet.
$200,000 Lexington Stakes (G3)
Post time: 4:30 p.m., race 9
A field of 10 with Proxy the 6-5 favorite is set for this Derby prep that offers only 20-8-4-2 qualifying points. Proxy comes in with 34 points, but his connections are indicating no Derby even if with a win. O Besos, with 25 points, is also in the field at 8-1.
Other races of note:
Keeneland: $300,000 Jenny Wiley (G1) A tough field of six fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles on turf is led by 2-1 favorite Micheline leaving from post 1 and taking on Tamahere (5-2), Etoile (3-1), and Juliet Foxtrot (7-2) (post time 6:03 p.m., race 10) … $150,000 Ben Ali (G3) Five-horse field of 4-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles is led by even-money favorite Night Ops, trained by Brad Cox. (post time 4:24 p.m., race 7)
Oaklawn: $250,000 Carousel A 6-furlong sprint headlined by multiple graded stakes winner Frank’s Rockette in a field of six older fillies and mares (post time 3:55 p.m., race 6) … $400,000 Oaklawn Mile By My Standards, a winner of more than $1.8 million, goes against the likes of Long Range Toddy and Wells Bayou in this race for older horses (post 5:49 p.m., race 9)
Aqueduct: $100,000 Top Flight Invitational Handicap A field of six featuring Horologist, the 7-5 favorite, in this 9-furlong race for older fillies and mares (post time 3:32 p.m., race 5) … $100,000 Danger’s Hour Chad Brown sends out 7-5 favorite Analyze It and 10-1 Delaware in the 1-mile turf race for older horses. (post time: 5:19 p.m., race 8)