HOT SPRINGS, Ark.—Super Stock emerged in “fantastic” shape from his victory in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) Saturday at Oaklawn, Steve Asmussen, the colt’s Hall of Fame trainer, said Sunday morning.
Super Stock is scheduled to be flown early this week to Kentucky, Asmussen said, where the Dialed In colt will join the trainer’s string at Churchill Downs to begin preparing for the Kentucky Derby May 1.
Super Stock ($26.40) gave Asmussen his record-tying fifth Arkansas Derby victory, capturing the 1 1/8-mile race by 2 ½ lengths under Ricardo Santana Jr. Caddo River finished second, a head in front of 1-5 favorite and previously unbeaten Concert Tour.
Super Stock figures to be one of the Kentucky Derby’s feel-good stories since he was purchased and is co-owned by Asmussen’s father, Keith, 79, and received his early schooling at the family’s famed El Primero Training Center near Laredo, Texas.
Steve Asmussen’s oldest son, also named Keith, rode Super Stock in his first three career starts last summer and provided the jockey with his first career stakes victory in the $113,647 Texas Thoroughbred Futurity Aug. 11 at Lone Star Park. Keith Asmussen, 22, is scheduled to graduate in May from the University of Texas with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He had 61 mounts last year when he made his riding debut during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Steve Asmussen is on the cusp of becoming the winningest trainer in North American history, he has never won the Kentucky Derby in 21 starts.
“This horse is better than a movie, when you think about all of that,” Keith Asmussen said moments after his father’s latest Arkansas Derby victory.
Super Stock’s only previous victory came in the restricted Texas Thoroughbred Futurity, but the colt did run third, beaten 4 ¾ lengths by future Eclipse Award winner Essential Quality, in the $400,000 Breeders’ Futurity Oct. 3 at Keeneland. Super Stock, in his 3-year-old debut, was a well-beaten fourth behind Concert Tour in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) March 13 at Oaklawn. Super Stock breezed three times before the Arkansas Derby, including a 5-furlong bullet (1:00.20) March 29.
“Going into the race, dad said this horse had been touting himself,” Keith Asmussen said. “I think it was the perfect description.”
Steve Asmussen, heading toward his record-tying 11th Oaklawn training title, called the race setup perfect for Super Stock, who sat just off Caddo River’s demanding splits of :22.62 for the opening quarter-mile, :46.51 for a half-mile and 1:11.25 for three-quarters of a mile.
“Those kind of fractions will sort out a lot,” Asmussen said.
The final time over a fast track was 1:50.92. A $70,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale graduate, Super Stock won for the second time in eight lifetime starts to increase his earnings to $804,762. He earned a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 92, a career high.
“He’s improving a lot,” Santana said after riding Super Stock for the third time. “He’s growing up. I’m really, really happy with that horse right now.”
Asmussen previously won the Arkansas Derby in 2002 (Private Emblem), 2007 (Curlin), 2016 (Creator) and last year’s first division with Basin, who was elevated to first following the disqualification of Charlatan for a medication violation. The case is under appeal.
Clearly, Asmussen’s fifth Arkansas Derby victory was different. It was a family affair. In addition to his father, mother, wife and three sons, Asmussen said his mother-in-law and two sisters-in-law were among those present to cheer the family horse.
“Can’t even remember the last time we were all at the same race,” an emotional Asmussen said following his record 95th career Oaklawn stakes victory. “Meant to be.”
Super Stock collected 100 points for his Arkansas Derby victory and has 109 overall to rank third on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard compiled by Churchill Downs. The Arkansas Derby offered 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.
Essential Quality, winner of Oaklawn’s $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 27, has 140 points to rank No. 1. Concert Tour (70) is No. 9 and Caddo River (50) is No. 13.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said Concert Tour would be sent to Churchill Downs, but was non-committal about a start in the Kentucky Derby. Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby a record-tying six times. Baffert said in a text message early Sunday afternoon that Concert Tour came out of the race well and will ship to Kentucky Monday or Tuesday.
“We’ll see how he works back,” Baffert said immediately following the Arkansas Derby. “Churchill, I don’t like to run there unless they’re going to be really live. We’ll see how he comes out of this race and see how he trains forward. I didn’t really want a hard race out of it, but we still wanted to win. I’ve won Derbies off of losses. You learn about your horse and see if there is improvement to be made. The horse will tell us.”
Caddo River came out of the Arkansas Derby in “great shape,” Jorgito Abrego, who oversees trainer Brad Cox’s Oaklawn division, said Sunday morning. Cox said immediately following the Arkansas Derby that he would consult with John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs, Caddo River’s owner/breeder, before making a decision regarding the Kentucky Derby.
“Talk it over with Mr. John Ed and come up with a game plan here in the near future,” Cox said. “We’ll ship him back to Churchill, one way or another, and either prepare for the Kentucky Derby, I assume he’ll get in with (50 points), if we choose that path or possibly the Preakness. We’ll talk to the boss and see what he thinks. More than anything, see how he comes out of it over the next couple of days.”
Cox also trains Essential Quality.
Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates
Photo: Super Stock (Coady Photography)