HOT SPRINGS, Ark.—Brad Cox already has two horses ticketed to the Kentucky Derby in unbeaten champion Essential Quality and Mandaloun. Whether the 2020 Eclipse Award-winning trainer has a third will depend on the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) Saturday at Oaklawn.
Cox will send out Caddo River in the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby, which is Oaklawn’s fourth and final Kentucky Derby points race. A homebred for John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs, Caddo River got off to a rousing start on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, registering a record-breaking 10 ¼-length front-running victory in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Jan. 22 at Oaklawn in his two-turn, stakes and 3-year-old debut. But in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles March 13 – Oaklawn’s third Kentucky Derby points race – Concert Tour, from post 7, beat favored Caddo River to the lead going into the first turn, controlled the pace throughout and cruised home by 4 ¼ lengths to remain unbeaten in three career starts. It was Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s record-extending eighth Rebel victory. Caddo River, keen early following a rail draw, finished fifth, beaten 6 ¾ lengths, after chasing Concert Tour on the outside to the top of the stretch.
Caddo River will try to reignite his Kentucky Derby hopes in the Arkansas Derby, a race Anthony has won a record three times (1980 with Temperence Hill, 1987 with Demons Begone and 1992 with Pine Bluff).
“Post-wise, it’s very similar, I guess, to last time,” Cox said Tuesday afternoon. “We’ll see how things go. We’re going to try and be a little bit more involved early – more aggressive, I think, if we can. That’s really the tactics we’re going to take into the race. We’ll see if that works any different.”
Arkansas Derby Field
Post, horse (sire) – position on Derby Leaderboard/points – trainer – jockey – PP, MLO
1. Super StockS (Dialed In) – #41/9 points – Steve Asmussen – Joe Talamo – 4th Rebel Stakes G2, 12-1
2. Caddo River (Hard Spun) – 36/10 points – Brad Cox – Florent Geroux – 5th Rebel, 7/2
3. Hozier (Pioneerof the Nile) – #26/20 points – Bob Baffert – Martin Garcia – 2nd Rebel, 4-1
4. Get Her Number (Dialed In) – #33/10 points – Peter Miller – Francisco Arrieta – 7th Rebel, 12-1
5. Concert Tour (Street Sense) – #13/50 points – Bob Baffert – Joel Rosario – 1st Rebel, 3/5
6. Last Samuri (Malibu Moon) – N/A – Dallas Stewart – John Court – 5th Southwest Stakes G3, 30-1
Probable post time for the Arkansas Derby, which will be televised live by NBC Sports Network, is 6:41 p.m. (Central). It goes as the 12th of 13 races. First post Saturday is 12:02 p.m., with the infield open, weather permitting.
Caddo River has had two published workouts, both against stablemates, since the Rebel. He went a half-mile in :48 March 27 and 5 furlongs in 1:00.20 last Saturday. Caddo River’s workmate last month, Joe Frazier, returned to win an entry-level allowance sprint for 3-year-olds last Saturday at Keeneland. Caddo River breezed last weekend with Night Ops, a multiple stakes-winning older horse.
“Not really anything other than what we’ve done in the past,” Cox said. “Just maintain fitness, really, I guess would be the thing. He’s a good work horse. Probably more of a free-running horse. I kind of think we found that out last time. Florent kind of took ahold of him up the backside and that didn’t really seem what he (Caddo River) wanted to do.”
The Arkansas Derby will offer 170 points to the top four finishers (100-40-20-10) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. The 1 ¼-mile race is limited to 20 starters, with starting preference given to the top 18 point earners in designated races like the Arkansas Derby. The top point earners on the European and Japan Road the Kentucky Derby will receive invitations.
Concert Tour earned 50 points for his Rebel victory and ranks No. 13 on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard compiled by Churchill Downs. Stablemate and Rebel runner-up Hozier (20 points) is No. 26, Grade 1 winner Get Her Number (10) is No. 33, Caddo River (10) is No. 36 and Rebel fourth Super Stock (9) is No. 41. Get Her Number finished seventh in the Rebel.
“I don’t think we want to run in the Derby unless we feel like we have a real shot,” said Cox, who has never had a Kentucky Derby starter. “Ultimately, that’s going to be up to Mr. John Ed. On my end, I want to go into the Derby, if we’re fortunate to have three horses, with three live shots, not what I feel like are two live shots right now and another horse just kind of getting in the way. I think the talent’s there for him to be a Derby horse. He needs to show up and show that he can swim in the deep end of the pool on Saturday.”
Anthony, among the most successful owners in Oaklawn history, has had a resurgence in recent years. He has had six Kentucky Derby starters, the last coming in 1993 with Prairie Bayou, who finished second as the betting favorite. Anthony also had the favorite in 1987 with Demons Begone, who bled shortly after the start and didn’t finish the race. Pine Bluff ran fifth in the 1992 Kentucky Derby. Both Prairie Bayou and Pine Bluff did win the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Cox won Oaklawn’s second Kentucky Derby points race this year, the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 27, with Essential Quality, who earned an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion 2-year-old male of 2020. Essential Quality remained unbeaten (5 for 5) in the $800,000 Blue Grass Stakes (G2) last Saturday at Keeneland. Mandaloun won the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) Feb. 13 at Fair Grounds.
Essential Quality (140 points) and Mandaloun (52) rank No. 1 and No. 12, respectively, on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.
Southern California-based trainer Michael McCarthy will try to pad his sparkling Oaklawn resume when Rushie makes his 4-year-old debut in Saturday’s $400,000 Oaklawn Mile for older horses.
McCarthy, a former Todd Pletcher assistant, has won half of his eight career Oaklawn starts, including the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older horses in 2018 with City of Light and last year’s $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares with Ce Ce.
Rushie is a winner in Hot Springs, too, claiming a closing-day first-level allowance route last year when McCarthy sent a handful of promising young horses to Oaklawn late in the meeting after racing in California was shuttered (COVID-19).
Rushie went on to capture the $500,000 Pat Day Mile (G2) for 3-year-olds Sept. 5 at Churchill Downs and will be making his first start since finishing seventh in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) Nov. 7 at Keeneland. It was his first race against older horses.
“Had himself a nice break, 60-day break, after the Breeders’ Cup,” McCarthy said Tuesday afternoon. “Horse has come to hand quickly. A spot like this for $400,000 over a racetrack we know he likes seemed to make sense and possibly propel him on to some bigger and better things here later in the year, hopefully.”
The consistent Rushie – first, second or third in 6 of 8 lifetime starts – competed against many of the country’s top 3-year-olds last year, including Authentic, Swiss Skydiver, Charlatan, Honor A. P. and Art Collector.
Rushie’s three victories have been at a mile or a mile and a sixteenth, but McCarthy said he believes the colt may be able to effectively handle longer distances later in 2021. The hope, McCarthy said, is in “bigger races going a little bit farther than at a mile.”
“I don’t think a mile and an eighth is going to be a problem,” McCarthy said. “Hopefully in the fall of the year he’s able to get a mile and a quarter. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. Obviously, Pat Day Mile, one-turn mile, he was very good. He was good there around two turns. He’s won at 3 of 4 racetracks that he’s gone to, so I’m good with it. We’ve got plenty of options in front of us. If he stays healthy, he’ll dictate where we go.”
From the first crop of Grade 1 winner Liam’s Map, Rushie has earned $503,151 for owners Jim and Donna Daniell.
The projected nine-horse Oaklawn Mile field from the rail out: Long Range Toddy, Jon Court to ride, 117 pounds; Gun It, Ricardo Santana Jr., 117; Wells Bayou, Florent Geroux, 124; Rushie, Joel Rosario, 124; Blackberry Wine, David Cabrera, 121; By My Standards, Gabriel Saez, 124; Pioneer Spirit, Ramon Vazquez, 124; Home Base, Francisco Arrieta, 117; and The Sound, Martin Garcia, 121.
Long Range Toddy (first division of the 2019 Rebel at Oaklawn), Wells Bayou (2020 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds) and By My Standards (2020 Oaklawn Handicap) are also Grade 2 winners.
Probable post time for the Oaklawn Mile, which goes as the ninth of 13 races, is 4:49 p.m. (Central). Last year’s Oaklawn Mile runner-up, Improbable, went on to capture three Grade 1 events and was named the country’s champion older dirt male.
Champion Monomoy Girl is scheduled to work Saturday at Oaklawn in advance of the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares April 17, trainer Brad Cox said. Monomoy Girl won the $250,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) Feb. 28 at Oaklawn in her last start. Stablemate Getridofwhatailesu is possible for the Apple Blossom, Cox said, after winning Oaklawn’s $150,000 Pippin Stakes Jan. 23 and finishing third in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 13. … Cox said millionaire Owendale is pointing for the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older horses April 17. Cox said 2020 Oaklawn Handicap runner-up Warrior’s Charge is possible for this year’s race. … Favored Green Light Go ($6.20) won last Saturday’s 12th race, a 1 1/16-mile allowance for older horses, to give nationally prominent breeder/owner Frank Stronach his first Oaklawn victory since Spun Sugar in the 2006 Apple Blossom. A Grade 2 winner, Green Light Go is trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer. Green Light Go was Stronach’s first winner in 2021.
Oaklawn Press Release
Photo: Caddo River blows away the field in the Smarty Jones, (Coady photography)