Oaklawn Park was host to maybe the best horse currently in training on Friday and Zenyatta did not disappoint, taking her 16th consecutive victory in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Invitational and doing it quite easily. Oaklawn is also hosting one of the key prep races on the Road To The Kentucky Derby with the Grade 1 $1,000,000 Arkansas Derby. Seriously, what took so long to get this race Grade 1 status? How many champions had to pass through Hot Springs before the Graded Stakes Committee got it right? Anyway, there is a field of nine and here is the analysis:
Even with the amount of quality in this field, there are still some prices to be found. I will be using them underneath here because I really like #3 Noble's Promise. I have been touting his Kentucky Derby chances for a couple of weeks now and I think he will be able to earn a trip to that elusive Winner's Circle here. His last work was a bullet, this will be his second start off the last layoff, he is coming off a career-high Beyer figure. In short, there is a lot to like about his prospects on Saturday. Robby Albarado gets the riding assignment. For second, I will go with #4 Northern Giant, who hit the board in his last two graded efforts, a 2nd in the Grade 2 Lane's End at Turfway and a 3rd in the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds. Lukas has two in this race (including Dublin) and this one might be the better option, price-wise. I like the removal of the blinkers for #9 Pulsion. The Biancone trainee has not done much in his last three (two 6ths and an 11th), but the equipment change might get him back on course. Corey Nakatani was aboard last time when they sent him to the front in the Grade 1 Florida Derby and he got swallowed up by the closers, but still was in hailing distance at the end. Finally, my home state of Arizona is making a bid to have its first homebred run in the Derby and I think The Grand Canyon State might have a chance with #5 Uh Oh Bango. He owns the best career Beyer in the field (a 102 at Prairie Meadows in September). He did not disgrace himself in running fourth in the Rebel and any purse money he picks up here should punch his ticket to Louisville. Here is the play for the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby:
$1 EX BOX 2-3-4-5-9 and $1 TRI 3 with 2-4-5-9
Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!