Dozen Entered in Final Big Points Prep
By Dick Downey
The Arkansas Derby will present perhaps the most important challenge of Classic Empire's racing career, and he'll have 11 competitors lined up with him in the gate.
A champion at age two for trainer Mark Casse, Classic Empire has raced only once this year, and that resulted in a disappointing third place finish as the heavy favorite in the Holy Bull Stakes back in early February. In Derby prep race years, it seems like eons ago.
Since then, Classic Empire's camp has said he was treated for a foot abscess and a sore back. Add to the mix the fact that he refused to work a couple of times, and that led to a new recipe -- a change of scenery. He was shipped out of Palm Meadows Training Center to Winding Oaks Farm in Ocala.
Since March 22, he's put in four workouts at Winding Oaks, the most recent one at four furlongs timed in 50.00 last Saturday. That work wasn't reported at Equibase as of Wednesday when entries closed.
Despite these issues, Classic Empire is the 8-5 morning line favorite.
Malagacy, Sonneteer, Untrapped, Petrov, Silver Dust and Lookin at Lee ran first-through-sixth in the Rebel Stakes, and they all return for the next step on the Arkansas route to Louisville.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Malagacyhas won three career starts, all of them this year, and he's the 2-1 second choice on the morning line. He prevailed in the Rebel by two lengths from off the pace under Javier Castellano. He and Classic Empire were shipped from Florida together.
Sonneteer came up the rail to get second in the Rebel, followed by Untrapped third and Petrov fourth -- with only their noses separating them at the finish.
Sonneteer, a maiden from the California barn of Keith Desormeaux, was sent off at 112-1 in the Rebel. In the Arkansas Derby, he'll try to win for the first time in 10 starts.
Untrapped, trained by Steve Asmussen, was based at Fair Grounds through February, finishing second in the Risen Star before being wheeled back in the Rebel three weeks later. In the latter race, Untrapped surged within a head of Malagacy in mid-stretch and at the wire looked like he might have finished second again -- but Sonneteer nosed him out. Untrapped will add blinkers in the Arkansas Derby.
Petrov is co-owned and trained by Ron Moquett. He's run in each of the Oaklawn 3-year-old stakes, finishing second in the Smarty Jones Stakes, second in the Southwest Stakes and a close fourth in the Rebel.
Silver Dust, trained by Randy Morse, and Lookin at Lee, trained by Asmussen, were fifth and sixth in the Rebel. Both seek improvement at the longer distance of the Arkansas Derby. In the Rebel, Silver Dust was beaten 3 1/4 lengths, a half-length ahead of Lookin at Lee. Silver Dust adds blinkers for the Arkansas Derby.
Conquest Mo Money, who wasn't early- or late-nominated to the Triple Crown, comes in from Sunland Park for trainer Miguel Hernandez. After winning his first three races, including the Riley Allison and Mine That Bird Derby, he finished second in the Sunland Derby won by Hence.
Rockin Rudy will try two turns for the first time followin a couple of close losses down the hill at Santa Anita. Trainer Doug O'Neill plans to remove his blinkers like he did with Irap before that one scored a huge upset in last Saturday's Toyota Blue Grass Stakes.
Rowdy the Warrior was last seen finishing third in an Oaklawn allowance race. In his only graded outing, he fnished ninth in the Southwest Stakes. Donnie K. Von Hemel trains.
Rounding out the field are recent maiden winner Grandpa's Dream, trained by Chris A. Hartman; and One Dreamy Dude, a maiden trained by Jack Van Berg. The latter one sheds blinkers.
The Arkansas Derby is the final big points prep for the Kentucky Derby, offering 100 to the winner, 40 to second, 20 to third and 10 to fourth.
The Arkansas Derby is race 11 on a 12-race card at Oaklawn Park and has an estimated post time of 6:18 central daylight time.
The Arkansas Derby field
1 Rockin Rudy, Mario Gutierrez, 118, 12-1
2 Classic Empire, Julien Leparoux, 122, 8-5
3 Silver Dust, Corey Lanerie, 118, 20-1
4 Petrov, Ricardo Santana, Jr., 118, 12-1
5 Grandpa's Dream, Alex Canchari, 118, 30-1
6 Lookin At Lee, Luis Contreras, 122, 15-1
7 Sonneteer, Kent Desormeaux, 118, 15-1
8 Rowdy the Warrior, Luis Quinonez, 118, 30-1
9 Untrapped, Mike Smith, 118, 6-1
10 One Dreamy Dude, Geovanni Franco, 118, 50-1
11 Conquest Mo Money, Jorge Carreno, 122, 15-1
12 Malagacy, Javier Castellano, 122, 2-1
Kentucky Derby points
Malagacy - 50
Untrapped - 34
Classic Empire - 32
Conquest Mo Money 20*
Sonneteer - 20
Petrov - 13
Lookin at Lee - 12
Rowdy the Warrior - 2
Silver Dust - 1
Rocking Rudy - 0
Grandpa's Dream - 0
One Dreamy Dude - 0
*Points awarded only if supplemented to the Triple Crown for $200,000