Hall of Fame conditioner Bob Baffert has dominated Oaklawn Park’s series of
graded preps for the Kentucky Derby, winning the Southwest, Rebel and Arkansas
Derby a combined eight times since 2010. He will again be a major factor in
Saturday’s renewal of the Grade 1, $1 million
Derby, saddling War Academy and Den’s Legacy for the 1 1/8-mile fixture that
highlights a blockbuster closing day program at the Hot Springs, Arkansas,
There a couple similarities between War Academy and the Baffert-trained
Bodemeister, who romped by 9 1/2 lengths in last year’s Arkansas Derby en route
to runner-up efforts in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Like Bodemeister, War
Academy enters Saturday’s race with just three previous starts to his credit and
will be piloted by Mike Smith. Unlike the free-running Bodemeister, War Academy
has from the beginning shown an ability to rate. That was evident in both his
debut victory at Hollywood Park in November and in an allowance victory at Santa
Anita last month. In between those two scores was a fourth-place finish in the
seven-furlong San Vicente, a race War Academy might have needed following a
Den’s Legacy is more comparable to Baffert’s dual classic winner Real Quiet,
who also entered his final Kentucky Derby prep in 1998 a veteran of 11 starts.
Den’s Legacy is less accomplished than Real Quiet was at this point in the
season, but has proven to be a consistent check earner. Following a victory in
the Generous on turf in his juvenile finale, Den’s Legacy has started the year
off with seconds in the Sham and Robert B. Lewis, and a third in his first
attempt over the Oaklawn strip in the March 16 Rebel.
The resurgent D. Wayne Lukas barn will be represented in the Arkansas Derby
by Oxbow, who missed by a head to stablemate Will Take Charge in the Rebel after
leading through most of the stretch. The Awesome Again colt was a dominating 11
1/2-length hero of the Lecomte at Fair Grounds in January, and then was a close
fourth in the Risen Star over the same track before the Rebel.
Overanalyze, who gave owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher victories
last season in the Remsen at Aqueduct and the Futurity at Belmont Park, will
attempt to rebound off a disappointing effort in the March 2 Gotham at the Big
A. Favored at 8-5 but drawn outside in post 11 in that 1 1/16-mile affair on the
inner dirt, Overanalyze was hung wide around both turns and failed to muster a
rally in a fifth-place effort.
“Overanalyze seems to have moved forward in his training since the Gotham,”
Pletcher said. “We expect improvement in his second start after the layoff.
(Jockey) Rafael (Bejarano) has had a lot of success at Oaklawn Park and we were
lucky to get him on short notice.”
John Velazquez, the regular rider for Overanalyze, is presently sidelined due
to injuries suffered in a spill at Aqueduct last weekend.
Falling Sky will attempt to stretch his speed nine furlongs for the first
time Saturday. The wire-to-wire winner of the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs
two back, the Lion Heart colt could not contain the unbeaten Verrazano going 1
1/16 miles in last month’s Tampa Bay Derby, finishing 7 1/4 lengths third to the
subsequent Wood Memorial winner.
Frac Daddy finished up the track in both the Holy Bull and Florida Derby
earlier this year, failing to show progress off a solid second-place finish in
last November’s Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs. Texas Bling, meanwhile,
failed to seriously threaten in either the Southwest and Rebel following a
near-miss second in the January 21 Smarty Jones.
The Arkansas Derby field is completed by stakes victor Heaven’s Runaway, a
distant third in the Southwest last time; multiple stakes-placed Divine
Ambition, who was cross-entered in Saturday’s Blue Grass at Keeneland; and
allowance winner Carve.
Ten three-year-olds with less lofty ambitions will contest the $100,000
Spur, a one mile event, earlier in the card.