Updated April 9, 2021 — Of the six horses entered in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby, five come out of the Rebel Stakes, including undefeated winner and possible Kentucky Derby favorite Concert Tour, and Caddo River, the Rebel beaten favorite.
In that mile and a sixteenth, Concert Tour was sent from his outside post and took the lead from speedy, rail-breaking Caddo River, forcing Florent Geroux into stalk mode. Geroux appeared comfortable enough, but apparently his colt wasn’t. When it was time to fire, he emptied out.
Post dynamics are the same for Saturday’s mile and an eighth, but race dynamics are very likely to change. Trainer Brad Cox wants Geroux to be more aggressive. If he is, Caddo River can own the racetrack, compelling Concert Tour to become the chaser—if Caddo River is fast enough early on.
Whether or not the colt is good enough, it’s his only chance to win Oaklawn’s signature event. If he doesn’t, the good news might be that in coming back in three weeks for the Derby, he could take enough starch out of the favorite since Cox is already in the Derby with Essential Quality and Mandaloun.
There’s one negative associated with Caddo River’s aggressive tactics. Have you ever been burned by “the longer Baffert?”
With 50 points, Concert Tour is already qualified. The longer Baffert here is Hozier, who finished well for place in the Rebel. A first or second place, or even a third-place finish, could earn him a spot in Louisville starting gate. His runnerup effort in the Rebel was worth 20 Derby-qualifying points.
If the two speeds hook hooves and commit equine hara-kiri up front…
At Keeneland, meanwhile, the G3 Lexington at one and one-sixteenth miles offers 20 Derby points to the winner. A victory by either Proxy (34) or Hockey Dad (20) could allow for entrée into the Top 20 or, at least, a first or second Also-Eligible late scratch prayer.
Other races of interest Saturday: The Oaklawn Mile featuring the return of G2 Oaklawn Handicap winner By My Standards; Oaklawn legend and Sprint Champion Whitmore attempted rebound looking for a G3 Count Fleet repeat; the G1 Jenny Wiley for turf females on the Keeneland lawn and Aqueduct’s wide open Danger’s Hour turf mile.
BETS ‘N PIECES: As of this morning, 20th slot on the Derby qualifying list belongs to Godolphin’s Proxy with 34 points… Will Bullet Bob win his fourth Arkansas Derby then roll a seven in Kentucky…? Without closer examination, off the top we think taking the blinkers back off Proxy is the right thing to do… Soup and Sandwich and Helium are on the Derby menu for Mark Casse; they arrived at Churchill yesterday… Essential Quality will work twice at Churchill in advance of Derby… Mandaloun works Saturday at The Downs.
G3 Lexington Stakes
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Proxy (6-5)
EARLY-LINE VALUE: Swiftsure (5-1)
G1 Jenny Wiley
MOST PROBAB;LE WINNER: Michelin (2-1)
EARLY-LINE VALUE: Michiline
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Rushie (3-1)
EARLY-LINE VALUE: Rushie
G3 COUNT FLEET
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Whitmore (9-5)
EARLY-LINE VALUE: Strike Power (5-1)
G1 ARKANSAS DERBY
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Concert Tour (1-1)
EARLY-LINE VALUE: Super Stock (6-1)
THE A.B.C’s of OAKLAWN’S ARKANSAS DERBY LATE PICK 5
A: 4, 6