March 23, 2019

Optix Sees an Arkansas Derby Upset

by EMILY GULLIKSON

 As the final Kentucky Derby points race, the Arkansas Derby on Saturday at Oaklawn Park will have the final word on the field for the Run for the Roses on May 5 at Churchill Downs. But before we look ahead to the First Saturday in May, OptixEQ looks to the 9-horse field for the $1-million, 170-point race.

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#1 BEAUTIFUL SHOT (30-1) takes another shot in Stakes company after a troubled, excusable trip in the Gotham. He has a license to improve off those 85 OptixFig from his two-year-old season; which, he would need to move up 10+ points here to be borderline competitive. I bet him last out in the Gotham, because the race looked to set up for his run style, and most importantly, was run at a one-turn mile. There is more upside on him, however this spot looks tough right now. 

#2 MACHISMO (20-1) the seven day turnaround is the least of my concern with this horse. He did not get much of a chance last out, and do not think that he is any worse for the wear wheeling right back. The legit concerns are distance and class. He would need to run back to his impressive maiden score to be competitive. That race was given regress signaling the race was potentially a top. He is positioned well on OptixPLOT in a tracking position, however if they try for the lead, that takes that advantage away. The early pace contention looks lively; if they take those tactics, he could get cooked early.

#3 TENFOLD (10-1) I made him the pick in here, knowing well the two favorites are definitely the ones to beat. Both of his starts have been solid. The last race was run over what seemed to be a deeper track, and horses were struggling to pass and make up ground in the lane. He had to be ridden closer to the pace to have a chance. Obviously he can sit close to the pace if needed, but does not strike me as one dimensional. Granted this is a serious test, he is the one new face that seems the most capable to take on the big two.

#4 DREAM BABY DREAM (15-1) consistently hits the board, and likely to be around late to pick up the pieces. As far as a win threat, he has not run fast enough, or well enough (OptixGrades in Stakes) to contend with others. A minor share looks to be the ceiling.

#5 SOLOMINI (2-1) starting this out by saying I am not a big fan of his. Going into the Rebel, his numbers/OptixFIG had not shown any progression in his two-year old campaign. He did move forward in the Rebel, and ran decently. For these reasons, and especially the way this field came up, I am not likely to play him, but cannot toss him.

#6 MAGNUM MOON (8-5) is the obvious horse to beat. On recent form, and the lack of depth in this race he is an obvious contender. Classic distances could be a concern for him – we will know a little more after this race, and factor that in at a later date.

#7 PLAINSMAN (30-1) longshot was no match for Tenfold in his last start, nor his pacesetting place rival for that matter. The track that day was playing favorable for horses forwardly placed. I have to think that the 96 OptixFIG from that race is likely a top.

#8 QUIP (9-2) for a few reasons (extra time, and strength of field), I think it was wise to wait a week and run in this spot. He will have to move forward on OptixFIG, and step up in class; neither are too far a reach. He is the obvious contender behind the two favorites.

#9 COMBATANT (6-1) I thought that if he really belonged with the Triple Crown crowd, last time was the time to show it. He was coming in the Rebel off back-to-back BTL races. He had a fair chance in the Rebel, and just failed to impact as needed. With the additional distance and class tests he might be a cut below. Overall, this horse has ability, and eventually will win a Stakes race. I could see him being a “wiseguy” type horse here, and after being on board the last couple times, going to side with another Asmussen trainee.