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2020 Arkansas Derby Preview & Betting Picks

2020 Arkansas Derby Preview & Betting Picks

Arkansas Derby Winners, times two

It was supposed to be Kentucky Derby day. Instead, two divisions of the Arkansas Derby will run Saturday at Oaklawn Park thanks to the coronavirus.

Although the lights are out at Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby still has a major role on the first Saturday of May. Both Arkansas Derby races will award 2020 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top four finishers.

The winner of each race gets 100 points, 40 for second, 20 points for third and 10 to finish fourth. Without question, the two winners will be in Louisville, Kentucky for the September Derby. Second place horses should also run for the roses as 40 points has been more than enough to qualify since Churchill moved to the points system in 2013. Crossing the wire third or fourth could be enough, provided the horses have already earned some points.

Both Arkansas Derby divisions feature fields of 11 horses, racing 1 1/8 miles on Oaklawn Park’s main track. We reviewed and analyzed video for the previous five Arkansas Derbies to help us build the profile of a winner.

Two main themes emerge, early speed holds, and strong closers make things interesting at the end. When watching the pair of half-million-dollar races, you are likely to see the horses that start with lead remain near the front all the way to the end. At least one will have a strong chance of winning the race.

Meanwhile, horses that were completely off the screen or an afterthought at the beginning will be gaining ground like a brakeless truck running downhill with 30,000 pounds of bananas (Google it).

Our focus is on the first division, race number 11, to see which horses have the blueprint to win based on our YouTube observations and handicapping experience.

Arkansas Derby Betting Picks

Early Speed Favourites

CHARLATAN (PP: 1 ML 1-1) is the only choice for this slot. Trainer Bob Baffert’s horse is undefeated in two races, beating the competition by 10 and 5 ¾ lengths from his most recent start. Both of CHARLATAN races produced triple-digit speed figures (a performance measuring stick where the higher the number the better), all other horse have reached 100 just once combined in 55 collective starts.

From a handicapping perspective, the horse with the highest last race speed figure wins the next race at roughly 30%.  

CHARLATAN improved in his second race compared to his debut. If he is even better in his third race, all other horses will be racing for second place.

Early Speed Value Contender

SHOOTERS SHOOT (PP: 6 ML 8-1) is the only other horse in the first division field to run on/near the lead in a recent start. He is on a two-race win streak. He was no more than a head behind the leader for the first three-quarters of a mile in has race before winning by a neck. He led from gate to finish line in the race before that.

Both SHOOTERS SHOOT and CHARLATAN won 1 mile races at Santa Anita. However, CHARLATAN’s final time was more than two seconds faster. That translates to approximately a 10 length difference on the track. In other words, a laugher.

SHOOTERS SHOOT needs to improve by a ton to make up a two-second disparity. It’s not impossible, but highly unlikely.

Closing/Stalking Value Contenders

GOUVERNEUR MORRIS (PP: 4 ML 9/2) is making his third start following a four-month break from racing. Trainer Todd Pletcher wins at a high 23% with horses running for the third time off the bench. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS is not a classic from worst to first closer. In fact, his two wins came with the gray horse settling within a couple of lengths behind frontrunners and chasing them down in the stretch.

The speed horses will most likely set a pace that’s a little faster than he’s run against, so GOUVERNEUR MORRIS could be a little further back than normal after the first half-mile, turning him into a more traditional closer.

ANNEAU D’OR (PP: 5 ML 6-1) had trouble in his last race. He played bumper horses at the start, found himself in some claustrophobic traffic and then seemed to say “to heck with it”. He finished ninth of 11, a dozen lengths behind the winner. That’s a disappointing effort for a horse the public made the post time favorite.

Prior to making a mess of the Grade II Risen Star stakes at Fair Grounds racetrack, ANNEAU D’OR was a neck and a head bob away from being undefeated in his first three starts. Trainer Blaine Wright is switching back to jockey Juan Hernandez, who rode ANNEAU D’OR in the horse’s first three starts after Joel Rosario had a tough trip at Fair Grounds. If Hernandez can find the magic once more, then ANNEAU D’OR has a shot.

BASIN (PP: 11 ML 8-1) closed the gap on the winner or extended his winning lead in four of his five races. Like GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, he is also making his third start after an extended layoff. Trainer Steven Asmussen scores at a respectable 21% in third starts.

The brown three-year-old finished a well beaten fourth in a non-graded stakes in his last effort. The Arkansas Derby is a big step up in competition. We do like that BASIN’s half-mile and three-quarter mile fraction were close to a second faster in his last race compared to his previous start. However, he’ll need to run the best race of his short career to find the tape first.

Long Shot Closers

WRECKING CREW (PP: 7 ML 20-1) has been bad, like should go into another line of work bad, in his last two efforts. But… he’s been training like a fat guy on January 2nd with three bullet workouts (the fastest workouts at the distance for that day’s training sessions) in four since his last race.

Prior to walking instead of running his last two starts, WRECKING CREW had a win, two seconds, and a third in his first four starts. If his workouts are indicative of the effort he’ll put on the track in the first division, then he could get back to his in-the-money ways.

Betting Picks

CHARLATAN will likely be the favorite at less than 1 to 1 odds. That’s not a good win bet in our view despite our opinion that he wins the race with ease if he runs to form.

To find value, horseplayers should look to use CHARLATAN as a key horse in exactas (winner and second place horse in order), trifectas (winner, second and third place horses in order) and maybe even a superfecta (top four horses in order).

With recent history as our guide, early speed is likely to hold. SHOOTERS SHOOT is the only other true frontrunner as should be included in our tickets. You must include the longshot just in case, and to bump the potential payout. So, include WRECKING CREW.

We rank the value closing/stalker value candidates in the following order:








Finally, a SAVER exacta in case CHARLATAN doesn’t show up ready to run. ANNEAU D’OR, BASIN or GOUVERNEUR MORRIS to win with CHARLATAN, ANNEAU D’OR, BASIN or GOUVERNEUR MORRIS to finish second.

Arkansas Derby Div 2 Betting Picks

Our picks for the Arkansas Derby’s second division, using the same philosophy, are:

#5 – Nadal 5/2
#11 – Wells Bayou 7/2
#4 – King Guillermo 3-1
#10 – Farmington Road 12-1
#3 – Storm the Court 6-1
#8 – Fast Enough 12-1

We believe NADAL and WELLS BAYOU are a touch better than the rest and would consider using either as a WIN bet and on top of an exacta. A smaller exacta would look like NADAL and WELLS BAYOU with NADAL, WELLS BAYOU, KING GUILLERMO and FARMINGTON ROAD.


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