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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

Tapiture, Bayern Heavy Favorites in Arkansas


Tapiture, winner of Oaklawn’s Southwest Stakes and second in the roughly-run Rebel Stakes drew post 3 and he was installed as the 9-5 morning line favorite for Saturday’s Arkansas Derby.

A field of nine horses entered the 1 1/8-mile race, which offers a total of 170 points towards eligibility in the Kentucky Derby.

Tapiture, a homebred son of Tapit, broke maiden last November winning the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs by 4 1/4 lengths. He began his 3-year-old season by winning the Southwest in the same dominating margin. In the Rebel, he encountered traffic and exchanged bumps with winner Hoppertunity. He will be seeking a cleaner trip in the Arkansas Derby under new rider Joel Rosario, who replaces Oaklawn’s leading rider Ricardo Santana Jr.

When asked what led him to the jockey switch earlier in the week, trainer Steve Asmussen said, “Joel’s Kentucky Derby victory last year.”.

The Bob Baffert-trained Bayern, who arrived from California on Wednesday, is likely to vie with Tapiture for the post-time favorite role on Saturday. The Offlee Wild colt, who drew post two and is listed as the 2-1 second choice on the morning line, is undefeated in two starts and enters the Arkansas Derby off a 15-length romp at Santa Anita Feb. 13. He’ll be ridden by Gary Stevens.

Bayern missed the San Felipe Stakes in March with what was reported as a foot bruise.

Todd Pletcher, who won the race last year with Overanalyze, will have two chances at collecting his fourth Arkansas Derby victory with Sunland Derby third-place finisher Commissioner and the lightly raced Danza. Commissioner drew post six, while Danza drew the rail.

"It wouldn't have been my first choice to have Danza on the rail so, hopefully, he can save some ground and get a good trip from there,” said Pletcher. “We don't think it's terribly important where Commissioner drew in this race. Overall we're happy with our posts."

Trainer Mark Casse, who had a division at Oaklawn for the first time this meet, will also have two horses in the Arkansas Derby. He sends out stakes winner Conquest Titan, most recently fourth as the favorite in the Tampa Bay Derby, and Thundergram, who broke his maiden at Oaklawn in January and was most recently second by a head in an optional allowance race March 16.

“The post is irrelevant for Conquest Titan because Calvin will take him back and make one big run at the end of it,” said Casse’s son and chief assistant Norman Casse. “Thundergram is a pretty solid little horse, but hopefully adding blinkers this time will do the trick.”

Ride on Curlin began his season by winning a six-furlong allowance race and has since been third in both the Southwest and Rebel Stakes – but he was a lot closer to the winner in the latter race. Since then, Billy Gowan says the son of Curlin has been training forwardly and believes he’s sitting on a big effort. He will be ridden by Jon Court, who will be seeking his third Arkansas Derby in five years after back-to-back wins in 2010 with Line of David and 2011 with Archarcharch. 

“I hope he won't show too much speed too early,” said Gowan. “I want him to lay off the pace this time and let the speed go out there. Hopefully, we can stalk them a little bit and have a better trip than we did last time. I'm not worried at all about the distance, with him being by Curlin. We've just got to have the right trip and right ride. If we do, my horse can match up with any of them.”

D. Wayne Lukas will send out Strong Mandate and will be looking for his third Arkansas Derby, but the first since 1985 when he saddled Tank’s Prospect, that year’s Preakness Stakes winner. Last year, Lukas won his record 14th career Triple Crown race in the Preakness with Oxbow, who had finished fifth in the Arkansas Derby. Strong Mandate finished second in the Southwest and fourth in the Rebel.

Knock Em Flat, an impressive maiden winner March 27, was cross-entered for both the Derby and the Northern Spur Stakes earlier on the card.

Edited Oaklawn Park release

Saturday, R11
Grade I Arkansas Derby
Oaklawn Park
1 1/8 Mile
Post Time 7:07 ET

Post   Horse  ML  Jockey Sx  Wt Trainer
1 Danza (KY)  15-1 J. Bravo C 118 T. Pletcher
2 Knock Em Flat (KY)  20-1 L. Quinonez C 118 D. Von Hemel
3 Tapiture (KY)  9-5 J. Rosario C 122 S. Asmussen
4 Ride On Curlin (KY)  12-1 J. Court C 118 W. Gowan
5 Thundergram (FL)  30-1 N. Arroyo Jr, C 118 M. Casse
6 Commissioner (KY)  8-1 M. Smith C 118 T. Pletcher
7 Conquest Titan (KY)  10-1 C. Borel C 122 M. Casse
8 Bayern (KY)  2-1 G. Stevens C 118 B. Baffert
9 Strong Mandate (KY)  9-2 L. Saez C 122 W. Lukas

All will run with Lasix

Equipment Changes: 5 - Thundergram - Blinkers On

Owners: 1 - Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners ; 2 - Sam Britt & Michael House ; 3 - Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC (Ron & Joan Winchell) ; 4 - Daniel J. Dougherty ; 5 - John C. Oxley ; 6 - WinStar Farm LLC (Kenny Troutt) ; 7 - Conquest Stables LLC (Ernie Semersky & Dory Newell) ; 8 - Kaleem Shah, Inc. ; 9 - Robert C. Baker & William L. Mack

Breeders: 1 - Liberation Farm & Brandywine Farm; 2 - Upson Downs Farm; 3 - Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC; 4 - G. Watts Humphrey Jr. & Louise IrelandHumphrey Revocable Trust - 2008; 5 - Stanley Boileau; 6 - WinStar Farm, LLC; 7 - Michael Edward Connelly; 8 - Helen Alexander; 9 - G. Watts Humphrey Jr.


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