April 21, 2024

Timberlake returns to Oaklawn for Arkansas Derby; Lemon Muffin leads Fantasy dozen

Timberlake wins the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park
Timberlake wins the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park (Photo by Coady Photography / Credit to Renee Torbit)

Timberlake, who got back on the winning track in last month’s Rebel (G2) as an odds-on favorite, might be the horse to beat again in Saturday’s $1.5 million Arkansas Derby (G1).

The Arkansas Derby, the highlight of the 2023-24 meeting at Oaklawn Park, will be run over 1 1/8 miles. All but Muth, who is trained by Bob Baffert, are eligible for a Kentucky Derby (G1) qualifying point distribution of 100-50-25-15-10 to the respective top five finishers.

Timberlake was a dynamite winner of the Champagne (G1) in the slop last October but finished a non-threatening fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) in his juvenile finale. The situation was better in the 1 1/16-mile Rebel, which Timberlake won with something to spare by two lengths despite drifting out a bit in the stretch. Timberlake’s trainer, Brad Cox, has taken the last two runnings of the Arkansas Derby with Cyberknife and Angel of Empire.

Muth outfinished Timberlake in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, placing second to Fierceness. The son of Good Magic has never been worse than second in five starts, with wins in the American Pharoah (G1) in October and the Jan. 6 San Vicente (G2) over seven furlongs the highlights of his career thus far.

Baffert has previously won the Arkansas Derby with eventual Kentucky Derby runner-up Bodemeister (2012), Triple Crown hero American Pharoah (2015), and with Charlatan and Nadal when run in divisions in 2020.

Mystik Dan captured the Feb. 3 Southwest (G3) by eight lengths and might be the biggest danger if he ran back to that performance. However, the Goldencents colt skimmed the rail over a muddy track that day and is unlikely to get a similar surface condition based on the latest weather forecast.

The remainder of the 10-horse field will need their running shoes to surprise the top three choices. Notables include Liberal Arts, the Street Sense (G3) who should come on from his season-opening third in the Southwest; Just Steel, who placed in the Smarty Jones S. and Southwest prior to an unplaced finish in the Rebel; and the stakes-placed Time for Truth, a last-out allowance winner over 1 1/16 miles.

The top three finishers from last month’s Honeybee (G3) will do battle again in the $750,000 Fantasy (G2), a Kentucky Oaks (G1) prep over 1 1/16 miles.

Lemon Muffin, who shocked the Honeybee by 3 1/4 lengths while breaking her maiden in the process, drew post 11 in the 12-filly field. The Honeybee was the first two-turn try for Lemon Muffin in six starts, and she sparkled over returning rivals Tapit Jenallie and West Omaha, the latter the 11-10 favorite in the Honeybee.

Thorpedo Anna, a distant second to Intricate in the Golden Rod (G2) last November in her most recent start, lands in a tough spot for season debut and also drew the challenging 12 post. Drawn near the middle of the gate is Where’s My Ring, a distant second to the top West Coast filly Kinza in the Santa Ysabel (G3) earlier this month.

Other potential threats includes My Mane Squeeze, a three-time stakes winner in New York-bred company; stakes winners Midshipman’s Dance and Ba Dee Yah; Sunland Park Oaks one-two Recharge and Candy Aisle; and All Things Go, an upset debut winner going six furlongs last month.

The Fantasy will award Kentucky Oaks qualifying points of 100-50-25-15-10 to the respective top five finishers.