In a race with several big name three year olds that needed a strong performance to gain a Kentucky Derby berth it was 41-1 longshot Danza that shocked the field and pulled off the improbable victory. Danza earned 100 points with the victory in one of the ‘Big Five’ prep races meaning that he has already locked up a qualifying spot for the Kentucky Derby.
Very little about Danza’s background suggested that he was capable of pulling off this kind of upset. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Danza had only one graded stakes start before the Arkansas Derby–he finished third as a two year old in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special. But Danza managed to stay in contention throughout the race and slipped past favored Bayern down the stretch under the guidance of jockey Joe Bravo. Ride on Curlin would finish second while Bayern held on for third.
With the victory Danza paid $84.60, $28.40 and $11 and more importantly earned 100 points in the Kentucky Derby qualification point standings. Ride on Curlin paid $7 and $4 while Bayern paid $4 to show. Southwest Stakes winner and Rebel Stakes runner up Tapiture finished fourth and is likely out of contention for a Kentucky Derby qualifying spot.
Danza gave trainer Todd Pletcher a victory in the Arkansas Derby for the second straight year. The Pletcher trained Overanalyze took the victory in 2013. Pletcher now has three possible entries for the May 3 Kentucky Derby–along with Danza has prep race winners We Miss Artie and Constitution pointed to ‘The Run for the Roses’.
The Arkansas Derby is a Grade 1 race over dirt with a distance of 1 1/8 miles held at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. In the past decade it has grown in importance as a stepping stone to the Kentucky Derby and is now ranked as one of the top five prep races along with the Blue Grass Stakes, Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby and Florida Derby. The 140th running of the Kentucky Derby will take place at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on May 3, 2014. The field is limited to 20 starters determined by a points qualification system. Points are earned in prep races and the horses with the highest scores gain qualification to the ‘Run for the Roses’.