Arkansas Derby Selections
By Dick Downey
In some ways I find this rendition of the Arkansas Derby tough, in some ways not. We have some horses that look evenly-matched on paper, but on the other hand we have some comparative form because seven of the 12 entries ran in the Rebel.
I'm going to try to upset Cupid, who looks like a winner, so it's tough. If anything's going to beat Cupid, they better hope he doesn't get a relatively uncontested lead like he did in the Rebel. Cupid broke on top in the Rebel, and that's what he needs to do again. He's lost twice and won once when he didn't break on top.
Cupid brought $900,000 paid by the Coolmore guys, and he showed why when repelling Whitmore's bid in the Rebel Stakes. Or did he?
It looked like Whitmore was going to run right by Cupid in mid-stretch of the Rebel after being ninth at the first half-mile, but suddenly Cupid was back in front. Cupid ran the final 5/16 mile in 31.73, which is good but not great, but he went the final sixteenth in 6.19, and that's sharp. Whitmore finished the final 5/16 in 31.58, making up less than a length on Cupid during that span. He flattened out in the stretch in a final sixteenth timed in 6.42. Does he have distance limitations? We'll find out on Saturday.
Creator was dead last in the Rebel after the first quarter-mile and finished third. He was still 10th, but only 3 1/2 lengths off the pace, after six furlongs. From there he finished the final 5/16 in 31.63, beaten three lengths. So he made up a half-length in the final 5/16 -- but, and this could be a big but -- he had to shift out leaving the far turn, losing ground to Cupid. His final sixteenth mile went in 5.89. Now that's a turn of foot.
Suddenbreakingnews obviously likes the track and could win again. He took the Southwest closing from post 13 but ran into trouble in the Rebel from post 14. Now he gets to break from post 4. He's been training well, and it'll be difficult to leave him off of exotic tickets if not win tickets.
Of the horses that didn't compete in the Rebel, I like, in order of their post positions, American Pioneer ($230,000 purchase), Unbridled Outlaw ($330,000 purchase), Dazzling Gem ($95,000 purchase) and Gettysburg ($425,000 purchase).
Gettysburg is the only one in the race with a triple-digit Brisnet speed figure -- he was awarded a 100 in his most recent race. He's run well at this distance twice. His effort in two races back in the Sam F. Davis was visually unimpressive, but he might be another one that simply didn't take to the Tampa surface. We've seen it before, and Gettysburg ran much better next time out.
Among the others, only Dazzling Gem has gone this far, finishing third in the Louisiana Derby. Dazzling Gem got a Brisnet 98 for that effort. Shaun Bridgmohan was aboard then but has taken off to ride in the Lexington Stakes. They say it's because connections of Dazzling Gem needed some time to decide whether to run back in three weeks.
American Pioneer has a lot of talent. It's only his third career start. He could win, but he might need more seasoning. It should be noted that Dazzling Gem beat him in his debut after American Pioneer ran into traffic trouble. That race could be the key to this race one way or the other.
American Pioneer might challenge Cupid for the lead, but can he stay with Cupid if he does that? Can he catch Cupid if he doesn't?
In the end, I've decided it's tough.
Dick's Picks are: