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Submitted by Hank Goldberg on Thursday, April 12, 2018 at 5:26 PM

Thursday, April 12

It shouldn’t be any surprise why I love the Arkansas Derby.

As a serious handicapper and analyst for ABC, NBC and ESPN coverage of horse racing I gave gave out my selections to an attentive public. And there is only one reason the public was attentive. I was never afraid of a price…which is why I have that love for the Arkansas Derby.

Let me whet your appetite by showing you just what kind of boxcar payoffs this race provides year in and year out.

In 2015, eventual Triple Crown Champ American Pharoah chased all but seven challengers and romped at $2.20. And as such, the exotic results were not at all indicative of what the tradition of the Arkansas derby produces.

To my point, check out the other four results since 2013

Overanalyze – Win $9.40…Frac Daddy – 2nd Exacta $195.40…Carve – 3rd Trifecta $2,528.60…Falling Sky – 4th Superfecta $20,094.40
Danza – Win $84.80…Ride On Curlin – 2nd Exacta $561.40…Bayern – 3rd Trifecta $2,646.00…Tapiture – 4th $5,994.80
Creator – Win $25.20…Suddenbreakingnews – 2nd Exacta $120.20…Whitmore – 3rd Trifecta $$516.20…Dazzling Gem – 4th Superfecta $4,195.40
Classic Empire – Win $5.80…Conquest Mo Money – 2nd Exacta $100.20…Lookin At Lee – 3rd Trifecta $774.80…Soneteer – 4th Superfecta $5,640.20

Just take a look at the 2017 edition. Even though the favored Classic Empire won at less than 2-1, the exotics made making a play more than worthwhile. The reason for these kind of payoffs is easy to understand. Competitive fields year in and year out, many within a length or two of each other and many tuned to run that all important final prep with a chance to get the Kentucky derby qualifying points necessary to be in the gate on the first Saturday in May.


The public and many of the serious pundits and neophytes alike have already decided that Magnum Moon, who is the morning line 8-5 favorite, and might go off shorter than that, will dominate the race.

It is an easy conclusion to draw. Magnum Moon, who is trained by Todd Pletcher, was a pull away winner of the Grade II Rebel Stakes here four Saturday’s ago.

The son of Malibu Moon will look to join Pletcher’s other conditioned recent Derby Prep winners Audible (Florida Derby), Noble Indy (Louisiana Derby), and Vino Rosso (Wood Memorial) in the starting gate at Louisville on May 5.

This will be Magnum Moon’s 4th career start. He began his career with a front end MSW win at 6 furlongs. That he did not begin his career as a juvenile, as is also the case with likely Kentucky derby favorite Justify, much will be made of those two as regards the fact that no Kentucky derby runner since Apollo in 1882 has won the Run for the Roses without starting as a 2-year old. But that is a conversation for three weeks from now.

Pletcher took his time, won an allowance race at Tampa Bay in mid-February and then came to prominence with a 3 ½ length win in the Rebel.

I Will Tell You I Am Using Malibu Moon
But In What Spot In The Exotics Is The Key

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The second and third place finishers from the Rebel, Solomini and Combatant return, searching for vital qualifying points. Obviously the 100 points to the winner makes it academic but with the 40 points for second a key amount, a second place finisher puts either one on the short list.

The Bob Baffert trained Solomini definitely has the talent to establish himself as a serious Kentucky Derby contender. What he needs to do is mature. He might not have beaten Magnum Moon in the Rebel under any circumstances, but he was steadied in the stretch after a number of head strong actions. If regular rider Flavian Prat can keep him straight and hang just off the morning line favorite, or even make the pace, he could reverse his fortunes. It is also worth noting that the products of his sire Curlin, are known for sometimes being a bit into racing before living up to their championship lineage.

Steve Asmussen sends out Combatant. Based on the kind of running style which has been served well on numerous occasions in the Arkansas Derby, the son of late sire Scat Daddy just might love the extra distance of the mile and an eighth test.

Combatant has yet to win from 4 tries in 2018 but has kicked in well in a trio of mile tests (3 straight runner up performances) and was third in the mile and a sixteenth Rebel, only a head behind Solomini after being bumped and shuffled back at the start. Watching this guy run one has the sense that he is ready to explode.

Those three alone would make this a solid bettor’s race, but when Quip was withdrawn from the Blue Grass Stakes last Saturday to run here instead, the Arkansas Derby marquee got that much brighter.

The move may turn out to be best for Quip. If nothing else, since his Tampa Bay Derby win on March 10 was his first start of 2018 the extra week might have given him more time to settle down from his top notch effort. Certainly his 3 works since March 24, the last pair at Keeneland prior to shipping would indicate he is not a bounce candidate. What is intriguing about the well bred son of Distorted Humor is that based on his Tampa Bay effort he could be in a tight fit, if not on the lead with both Solomini and Magnum Moon in the front end contingent.

Steve Asmussen is also represented by another son of Curlin. Tenfold has only raced twice, winning his debut, February 9 and then capturing an entry level allowance triumph on March 18 with a close up tracking win at a mile. The Winchell Thoroughbred home bred could, as they say, be any kind.

And if there weren’t enough angles in the race to try and straighten out, as of Thursday afternoon, Machismo, who bore out at the break of the Blue Grass Stakes, never got involved, and finished the circuit as though a galloping workout, has shipped here for one last qualifying try.

Another sleeper, if nothing else but for the exotics is Dream Baby Dream. The Into Mischief colt finished third in three straight two turn allowance races here at Oaklawn the shipped to New Mexico to finish second in the Grade II Sunland Derby. He is another that could sneak into the Kentucky derby field with a second or even third place finish.

The field is completed by Beautiful Shot, a Keith Desormeaux trainee who lost all chance in his last when checked sharply in the Grade III Gotham at Aqueduct and Plainsman, who has had three tires her after breaking his maiden with the best being a well beaten third behind Tenfold in that one’s allowance win.  

There is still more to check and recheck, which I will be doing between now and when I release my selections early Saturday morning.

Remember, this is one of two Derby Preps races on Saturday. The Lexington (10-4-2-1 qualifying points) will also be run and I’ll have my 1-2-3-4- selections for that race plus 3-4 Bonus Stakes Races…all for ONLY $35.

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