March 4, 2024

Nadal impresses winning Arkansas Derby second division with new tactics

Nadal Arkansas Derby
Nadal wins the 2020 Arkansas Derby Division 2 (Coady Photography)

Following wire-to-wire wins in his first three starts, Nadal displayed valuable tractability and remained perfect with a sharp three-length victory in the second division of Saturday’s $500,000 Arkansas Derby (G1).

Bob Baffert won both divisions of the Kentucky Derby prep race, taking the first with unbeaten Charlatan, and Nadal improved to 4-for-4 after completing 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.34. Joel Rosario rides the imposing son of Blame, and Nadal is campaigned by George Bolton, Arthur Hoyeau, and Barry Lipman.

Nadal left the starting gate as the 9-10 favorite in the nine-horse field, but he was beat to the front by Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Wells Bayou, who crossed over from his far outside post to show the way into the first turn on a short lead. Nadal established a tracking position in second, about a half-length back through opening splits in :23.08, :46.21, and 1:09.85.

Nadal edged closer rounding the far turn, and the bay colt took over entering the stretch. Tampa Bay Derby (G2) victor King Guillermo, who established a favorable stalking trip in third as the 9-2 second choice, rallied into a threatening position in upper stretch, but Nadal had more reserve and edged away to a clear lead by midstretch.

The outcome never was in doubt as Nadal rolled home, finishing up in .15 seconds faster than Charlatan.

“I thought if there was speed today, he could sit off it,” co-owner Bolton said. “He had a much more comfortable trip than in the Rebel when he was attacked by three different challengers. I was very proud. He finished well.

“I have a secret. Bob called me two days ago and said he wanted me to come. He said he thought he’d run big and wanted me there.”

The Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifier awarded points on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top four finishers, and Nadal now leads all horses with 150 points after picking up 50 for the Rebel. King Guillermo, who netted 50 points for the Tampa Bay Derby, wound up 1 1/2 lengths better than Finnick the Fierce, who closed ground late to be third at 62-1.

It was another 2 1/2 lengths back to Farmington Road in fourth, and Wells Bayou, Storm the Court, Silver Prospector, Code Runner, and Taishan came next.

Nadal won at first asking at Santa Anita in mid-January, graduating by a 3 3/4-length margin, and returned three weeks later to record a hard-fought win in the 7-furlong San Vicente (G2), prevailing by about a length. He broke from the innermost post while making his two-turn bow in the 1 1/16-mile Rebel, dueling from the start through hot fractions, and gamely turned back a late-running foe to triumph by three-quarters of a length.

Bred in Kentucky by Sierra Farm, Nadal was purchased for $700,000 at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Florida March 2-year-old sale. He is out of the Pulpit mare Ascending Angel, and this is the immediate female family of 1991 champion 2-year-old filly Pleasant Stage.

With the $300,000 payday, Nadal pushed his earnings to $1,053,000.