While Charlatan will be heavily favored to dominate the first split of Saturday’s $500,000 Arkansas Derby (G1), the second division of the 9-furlong Road to the Kentucky Derby prep at Oaklawn Park is relatively contentious.
Trainer Bob Baffert has the probable favorite here, too, in Rebel (G2) winner Nadal. But the speedy son of Blame had to fight hard in that 1 1/16-mile test and not only has farther to travel this time but will have other horses to tangle with early.
Most notable of these is Wells Bayou, who set a fast pace and weakened late in his last spin around the Oaklawn oval, in the Southwest (G3), but rebounded to take the elongated, 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby (G2) in March for trainer Brad Cox.
Storm the Court, the reigning champion juvenile, also has some early foot. Although displayed successfully in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), the Court Vision colt was no match for either Nadal in the San Vicente (G2) or Authentic in the San Felipe (G2) in two earlier starts this year.
King Guillermo parlayed a close stalk-and-pounce trip to a 4 3/4-length success as a 49-1 outsider in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) on Mar. 7, and could be sitting in the catbird seat if the top pair duke it out early.
“He seems like he can run two miles,” said trainer Juan Avila of King Guillermo.
Among those likely to be doing their best running late is Farmington Road, who trailed the field of 13 in last month’s Oaklawn S. before rallying to miss by only a half-length. Silver Prospector, who ran down Wells Bayou in the Southwest, has blown hot and cold this meet with non-competitive runs in the Smarty Jones S. and Rebel book-ending that winning performance.
Fast Enough, third in the San Vicente when last seen, was reported on Tuesday to be a likely scratch from this Arkansas Derby division after not traveling from California.
The second Arkansas Derby division goes as Race 13 on the 14-race meet finale card.