Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®
Thursday Arkansas Derby Notes
Den’s Legacy and War Academy, who arrived at Oaklawn Park Wednesday, each went to the track before the break Thursday morning to check out their new surroundings and gallop 1 1/4 mile.
Even though War Academy has only had three starts and didn’t hit the board in his lone stakes try, the seven-furlong, Grade II San Vicente, he raised his game to a new level when running two turns for the first time last time out in an $80,000 allowance/optional claiming race. The effort was impressive enough that he was installed as the 2-1 morning line favorite in the Grade I Arkansas Derby field of 10. Mike Smith has the return mount.
“War Academy certainly is getting a lot of buzz,” said Jimmy Barnes, Bob Baffert’s top assistant. “He’s a Giant’s Causeway colt, he’s a good looking colt, and he’s hopefully going in the right direction now. We couldn’t be happier with him. But, he’s untested. We’ll find out on Saturday.”
The colt will try to earn enough points to gain a starting berth in the Kentucky Derby. He currently has no points in the standings. The winner of the Arkansas Derby will gain 100 points, while the place and show and fourth horses will get 40, 20 and 10 respectively. A second-place finish is thought to be enough to get War Academy to the Derby.
Den’s Legacy has earned 20 points to date and ranks eighteenth place for one of the 20 Derby spots. An improvement from his third in the Grade II Rebel Stakes under Robby Albarado is what Baffert has in mind, but another third-place finish would probably seal the deal. A fourth-place finish might be good enough.
“Bob chose Arkansas for both of them because that’s been our route to the Derby, and we’ve been successful here,” said Barnes, who accompanied winner Bodemeister last year. “Den’s Legacy is possibly getting a little overshadowed by his stable mate. He kind of had an inside trip in the Rebel. Robby said it was just tight the whole way. This time he drew a little more to the outside, so hopefully he’ll have a cleaner trip this time.”
Albarado retains the mount on Den’s Legacy, who will break from post 5 and is 6-1 on the early line.
Overanalyze galloped 1 1/4 mile on Thursday morning as trainer Todd Pletcher continued to tighten the screws on the son of Dixie Union. With only 10 Kentucky Derby points to date, he needs to show much more than he did while fading to fifth last time out in the Grade III Gotham Stakes.
“We were kind of hoping for six or seven,” assistant trainer Ginny DePasquale said of his draw of the 9 post in the 10-horse field . “In the Kentucky Derby, you’d love to have the 10 to 12 post, but not here. In his past races, he’s run on the front end and come from behind, so we’ll have to play it by ear, see how he breaks and hope for a clean trip.”
Overanalyze is the third choice on the line at 4-1 and he will be partnered for the first time with Rafael Bejarano, who takes over for the sidelined John Velazquez.
Falling Sky arrived on the grounds at 4:30 a.m. Thursday after vanning from Churchill Downs. Once he was settled in, he was hand-walked around the paddock. Reynaldo Abreu, John Terranova’s assistant, planned to send him out on the track to stretch his legs on Friday.
The son of Lion Heart and grandson of 1993 Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero is 10-1 in the morning line. His connections think his odds might be generous.
“He’s going to run his race. He always tries hard, and we like his chances,” Abreu said.
Like Den's Legacy, Falling Sky has 20 Derby points.
“It absolutely is time for him to step up,” said Abreu. “This is going to be the third time he’ll run for us, and now we need to see if he’s good enough. He needs to earn that right to go on to Kentucky.”
Abreu has been with Terranova for four years but has worked in the past for Pletcher, D. Wayne Lukas and Nick Zito. He's been involved with plenty of their Kentucky Derby starters over the decades. He says he recognizes a horse that has that certain something special.
“Falling Sky does have it,” he said. “This horse has got a lot of talent. He’s a little bit of a handful sometimes, but he loves to train, and he loves his job. He’ll get the mile and an eighth distance on Saturday, for sure.”
Martin Garcia picks up the mount for the first time and was expected in Hot Springs on Thursday to get acquainted with the colt.
Frac Daddy galloped 1 1/2 mile on Thursday morning after walking through the paddock under tack and schooling there during Wednesday’s races. The Ken McPeek trainee drew post 8 and is set at 15-1. Victor Lebron will ride him Saturday.
“Victor has been on him the last three days, and they are getting a long great,” said Phil Bauer, Ken McPeek’s assistant at Oaklawn. “He’s hitting the ground pretty good, and we’re happy with him. We’re also happy with our draw. He broke his maiden from post 12 at Churchill Downs, so he’s been out there and seen it from there before.”
Bauer and Frac Daddy were together at Churchill Downs during the 2012 fall meet but then the colt went to the Florida division to race at Gulfstream Park over the winter.
“I hadn’t seen him until he got here,” said Bauer. “He was long and lanky as a 2-year-old, and he seems to have filled out a little and grown up some.”
Carve galloped once around the racing strip on Thursday morning and was scheduled to school at noon in the paddock. Trainer Steve Asmussen, who is due to arrive on Friday, and the crew expect a better effort than his sixth-place finish in the Rebel last time out.
“He’s trained really well out of the Rebel,” said assistant trainer Darren Fleming. “This will be only his fourth career race, and he’s learning every time out. But this is not an easy spot for him.”
Carve, who will be ridden by Oaklawn’s leading jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr., drew the rail this time out and is 20-1 in the line.
“He didn’t really have a chance in the Rebel because he was back too far,” Langford said. “We’re hoping he’ll be a lot closer to the pace this time.”
Divine Ambition, who was a late addition to the field on the morning of the draw, was scheduled to leave trainer Darren Miller’s stable in Kentucky Thursday evening and arrive at Oaklawn early Friday morning.
He finished second last out in the $75,000 Rushaway Stakes on the Polytrack at Keeneland at 1 1/16 mile and will switch back to dirt in the Arkansas Derby.
“It’s hard to say how he’s going to take to the Oaklawn surface, but he has won on the dirt at Gulfstream, Calder and Tampa, and then on the Poly, so he seems to be able to take his track with him,” said Miller, who will not be on hand to saddle Divine Ambition. “Bu,t he has to step up his game if he’s going to move on to the Kentucky Derby. Absolutely.”
Brian Hernandez, Jr., who will be in town to ride Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned earlier on the card in the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap, has picked up the mount on the 20-1 choice on the line.
Trainer Danele Durham was upbeat Thursday. “He’s doing fabulous, just fabulous," she said.
Texas Bling, 20-1 in the morning line, galloped 1 1/2 mile on Thursday, and Durham said she would take it easy with him right up to the race.
“I like to run my horses fresh,” said Durham, who has 24 in her care, mostly for Texas Bling’s owner and breeder the Hall’s Family Trust. “He couldn’t be any better. This is shaping up just like a story book.”
Durham, who has yet to win a graded stakes race or even run a horse in a grade I event.
“This is my first time running in the Arkansas Derby, and I’m very excited,” she said. “To win a grade I would be very, very nice.”
Heaven’s Runway galloped an easy 1 1/2 mile on Thursday morning and will jog and walk on Friday.
“He worked real good in his last breeze and galloped out real strong. He gets better every week and I’m not just saying that," said trainer Bill Martin. "Sometimes horses go backwards, but this one is moving forward. He’s fitter and better than ever before."
Israel Ocampo has been named to ride the 30-1 shot for the first time in what will be the colt’s ninth start.
“He’s kind of a speed horse, and...I felt like he fits him better and will be able to get him to relax a little more,” said Martin.
Edited Oaklawn Park release with additional content by Dick Downey