Traditionally, the Arkansas Derby is one of the biggest stops on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. That’s still the case this time around, even though the horse racing calendar has been flipped on its head in the current environment.
The Arkansas Derby is still on tap to be run this Saturday. Initially scheduled for April 11, Oaklawn Park bumped the signature race up to this weekend.
This coming Saturday was the original day for racing’s biggest event at Churchill Downs, but this year’s Derby has been pushed forward to September 5. As for the Arkansas, interest remains incredibly high – so much so that there are two divisions of horses slated to compete.
Oaklawn president Louis Cella shared some insight on what sparked the change.
“Because of our national crisis, we and the entire world of sports are in uncharted waters requiring unprecedented actions,” Cella said. “We’re trying to make the best of a very, very difficult situation. On the one hand, it is the worst of times to be racing without fans in our grandstand. On the other, we have a large number of exceptional 3-year-olds wanting to run in our Arkansas Derby. We simply did not want to see anyone lose that opportunity.”
There are 22 starters scheduled to compete, so Oaklawn has split the field up into two races of 11 starters each. Race conditions are identical as the two events will be 1 1/8-mile affairs with a $500,000 purse. For Derby points, both races will award the top four finishers on a scale of 100-40-20-10.
Churchill Downs president Kevin Flanery is on board with the shift and gave racing fans something else to look forward to while sharing his thoughts.
“While we are always respectful of the time-honored traditions of the Kentucky Derby, we’re in the midst of an unprecedented year. We recognize that there are numerous 3-year-olds currently in training with limited racing opportunities, and our prominent partner Oaklawn Park is in a unique and important position to immediately fill a void for horsemen,” he said. “An extension of the Road to the Kentucky Derby will continue to evolve in the weeks ahead. Our Churchill Downs team is united in our commitment to holding the very best Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5, and it will certainly be one of the most memorable of our lifetimes.”
It’s hard to believe that we’re approaching the first Saturday in May and the Derby remains months away, but that’s the situation at hand. In a perfect world, the path back to normalcy will be a really smooth one and allow for acceleration as conditions permit.
For now, we have a very big day of racing to look forward to on Saturday, and the field has been released for the two signature races. Here’s a sneak peek at post positions and jockeys for the dual runnings of the Arkansas Derby.
Derby 1 – Race 11 – 5:29PM ET
1- Charlatan, Martin Garcia
2- My Friends Beer, Declan Cannon
3- Mo Mosa, Kendrick Carmouche
4- Gouverneur Morris, John Velazquez
5- Jungle Runner, Tyler Baze
6- Shooters Shoot, Joe Talamo
7- Wrecking Crew, Flavian Prat
8- Anneau d’Or, Juan Hernandez
9- Winning Impression, Julian Leparoux
10- Crypto Cash, Cory Lanerie
11- Basin, Richard Santana Jr.
Derby 2 – Race 13 – 6:43 PM ET
1- Finnick the Fierce, Martin Garcia
2- Saratogian, Joe Talamo
3- Storm the Court, Flavien Prat
4- King Guillermo, Samy Camacho Jr.
5- Nadal, Joel Rosario
6- Code Runner, Stewart Elliott
7- Silver Prospector, Ricardo Santana Jr.
8- Fast Enough, Tyler Baze
9- Taishan, David Cohen
10- Farmington Road, Javier Castellano
11- Wells Bayou, Florent Geroux
Sandwiched in between those two races will be the $600k Oaklawn Handicap, a GII stakes race for 4-year-olds and upward on a 1 1/8-mile dirt track for 14 starters. TVG and FS1 will be broadcasting the entire Oaklawn card on Saturday, while NBC Sports will dip in and show the TVG feed for a portion, including the trio of stakes.