The general idea of the Kentucky Derby prep races and the qualification system is to bring clarity to the crop of hundreds of three year olds that are pointed to the race at the start of every year. This year the system has narrowed the field down but brought little clarity to the ‘Run for the Roses’ beyond presumptive favorite Nyquist (and there are those that still have their doubts about him). The picture became even more muddled on Saturday as Creator won the Arkansas Derby as an 11/1 choice. In the process he earns 100 Kentucky Derby qualification points.
The race favorite was Cupid, trained by Bob Baffert (and like Creator a son of Tapit) who went off as an 4/5 betting choice following his win in last month’s Rebel Stakes. Cupid was never a factor–he got roped in to a blistering fast pace early and soon found himself swallowed up in traffic. He’d go on to finish tenth. Trainer Bob Baffert says that Cupid will be shipping to Churchill Downs but he’d ‘wait and see’ about running him in the Kentucky Derby. If Baffert wants to run him, he’s got a spot in the field at #13 with the 50 points he earned winning the Rebel.
Creator was left in the dust at the start due to the fast pace but got a spectacular ride from jockey Ricardo Santana. From the rear of the field, Santana worked Creator through the five wide group of horses on the turn (the same one that had swallowed up Cupid) and once clear began to pick off the horses that tried to keep up with the pace as they faded. Santana quipped after the race “I hope I have the same trip in the Kentucky Derby.”
Horse racing enthusiasts were hoping that Saturday’s Arkansas Derby would bring a greater degree of clarity to a cloudy Kentucky Derby contender roster. It didn’t happen. 11-1 underdog Creator rallied from last place with a strong stretch run to win the Grade 1 $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. The victory gives Creator 100 Kentucky Derby qualification points and guarantees him a spot in the field on May 7.
Suddenbreakingnews finished second awarding him 40 more Derby qualification points. He now has a total of 50 and is solidly in the field. Whitmore finished third earning 20 Derby qualification points, good enough for a guaranteed spot in the field at #16. All of the top three finishers have been declared for the Kentucky Derby and will travel to Churchill Downs in the near future.