Improbable has been one of the leading favorites for the Kentucky Derby (G1) since December, but even he can not afford to have a down day on Saturday when he faces 10 others, including Rebel (G2) division winners Omaha Beach and Long Range Toddy, in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1), the final Road to the Kentucky Derby series prep of 2019.
Closing as the 8-1 fourth choice in the final Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) pool last week, Improbable still has to hit the board in the 1 1/8-mile signature event of Oaklawn Park‘s meet to earn sufficient qualifying points as the leader board currently stands. The Bob Baffert trainee is currently sitting at #26 in eligibility with 25 points. Qualifying points of 100-40-20-10 will be dispersed to the top four finishers.
Winner of all three starts at two, including a five-length romp in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1), Improbable, who adds blinkers Saturday, was upset by Long Range Toddy in the first division of the Rebel last month. In a thrilling finish, Long Range Toddy bounced back from earlier losses in the Smarty Jones and Southwest (G3) to win by a neck under a masterful, ground-saving ride by Jon Court.
Regardless of his performance Saturday, Long Range Toddy’s 53.5 points are plenty to keep him Kentucky Derby eligible.
Omaha Beach won the second division of the Rebel in an even tighter photo over juvenile champion Game Winner, but the 37.5 points for that win still has him on the borderline between a confirmed Derby entrant and a bubble horse. The Richard Mandella-trained son of War Front was making his stakes debut in the Rebel after a belated nine-length maiden win at Santa Anita Park in his fifth start.
Country House wheels back on three weeks rest hoping for a Kentucky Derby berth. Second in the Risen Star (G2) in February, he ran below expectations when only fourth in the Louisiana Derby (G2) last time. Also in search of a points boost are Gray Attempt, whose victories in the Smarty Jones and Gazebo bookend a troubled last-place effort in the Southwest, and California invader Galilean, who finished third in the Rebel division won by Long Range Toddy.
The field is rounded out by Six Shooter, Tikhvin Flew, Laughing Fox, One Flew South, and Jersey Agenda.
After warm and sunny conditions in Hot Springs mid-week, the forecast for Arkansas Derby Day looked far less promising with a high hovering around 60 degrees and a 100 percent chance of showers.
Racing continues at Oaklawn beyond Arkansas Derby Day for the first time in decades, with closing day scheduled for Kentucky Derby Day, May 4.