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Arkansas Derby (Grade 1) Preview

strong-mandate

1. Danza

DanzaRace Record:(3) 1-0-2

Earnings:$66,428

Jockey: Joe Bravo

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Graded Stakes Victories:0

The Verdict:One of two Pletcher entries kicks us off as we move through this competitive field of nine! Pletcher won this race last year with Overanalyze, but Danza comes in lightly race and needs to step up big time to compete. He’s had just one race since August of last year. In his lone start this year he was third in an allowance at Gulfstream, so it’s hard seeing him beating this talented group.

2. Knock Em Flat

Oaklawn 2011Race Record: (5) 1-2-0

Earnings:$63,800

Jockey:Luis Quinonez

Trainer:Donnie K Von Hemel

Graded Stakes Victories: 0

The Verdict:Tough to see how this one can match up class wise with most of these. I think the light bulb finally came on last time out in his crushing maiden win, but this will be asking too much. He is cross entered in a smaller stakes earlier on the card, and that should probably be where he ends up

3. Tapiture

tapRace Record: (6) 2-2-2

Earnings:$440,838

Jockey:Joel Rosario

Trainer:Steve Asmussen

Graded Stakes Victories:2

The Verdict:He was the clear-cut winner of the Southwest Stakes, and with a clean trip he probably would have won the Rebel Stakes as well. He currently sits at number two on our Kentucky Derby rankings list, and deserves favoritism in this race. The son of Tapit has gotten a mile and one-sixteenth without any problems at all, and I think he’ll stretch out to this distance fine. Likely winner with the right trip.

4. Ride On Curlin

ROCRace Record:(8) 2-1-4

Earnings: $214,687

Jockey:Jon Court

Trainer:William Gowan

Graded Stakes Victories:0

The Verdict:We saw a major progression from him last time out in the Rebel Stakes, as he battled with Strong Mandate all the way around the track before finishing a close third. The workouts since that race have been huge, and many locals are picking this horse to pull off the upset. We know the breeding is there, and we’ve seen flashes of brilliance talent wise, but can this “wise guy” horse get it done on the big stage?

5. Thundergram

Oaklawn 2011Race Record:(6) 1-3-1

Earnings:$65,600

Jockey: Norberto Arroyo Jr.

Trainer:Mark Casse

Graded Stakes Victories:0

The Verdict:Curious spot for him to land…especially since trainer Mark Casse has a much more worthy competitor in Conquest Titan. You can’t see much in the past performances that gives Thundergram any kind of a chance against this tough bunch of runners.

6. Commissioner

Commissioner_Top-Billing_Coglianese-684x533Race Record: (5) 2-1-1

Earnings:$189,100

Jockey:Mike Smith

Trainer:Todd Pletcher

Graded Stakes Victories:0

The Verdict:I’m not ready to give up on him just yet! Commissioner will finally get off of a track that favors speed when he runs in this one, and should benefit greatly from it. He’ll need a little pace to run at, which he should get, and I love the mile and one-eighth distance for him. Many people think the horse is too slow, but I believe the tracks he’s been running on made him look that way. He’s my long shot pick!

7. Conquest Titan

ConquestTitanSwynfordStakes2013MB298Race Record:(7) 2-1-0

Earnings:$208,995

Jockey:Calvin Borel

Trainer:Mark Casse

Graded Stakes Victories:0

The Verdict:While most have jumped off he Commissioner bandwagon, I’ve jumped off the Conquest Titan bandwagon. Actually I was never on it to begin with. I’ve never seen why this one had all the hype that he’s had, and I’ll make him beat me before I believe. It is a little scary that so many still believe in him though…if you are one of those people maybe you can comment on this preview and explain why.

8. Bayern

bayern1Race Record:(2) 2-0-0

Earnings:$68,400

Jockey:Gary Stevens

Trainer:Bob Baffert

Graded Stakes Victories:0

The Verdict:File this one under the “wouldn’t be surprise with anything” category. He’s a wild card in every sense of the word. Lightly raced, been off for a while, but he’s showed a tremendous amount of talent. I’ve heard lots of comparisons to Bodemeister this week, but Bode came to Hot Springs off a second place effort against a tough stakes field. Bayern comes in off an easy allowance victory. That lack of seasoning might keep him from winning.

9. Strong Mandate

Strong MandateRace Record:(7) 2-1-1

Earnings:$522,900

Jockey:Luis Saez

Trainer:D Wayne Lukas

Graded Stakes Victories:1

The Verdict:It’s put up or shut up time for Strong Mandate. There is no question he had legit excuses when finishing third in the Breeders Cup Juvenile and second in the Southwest Stakes, but his fourth place effort in the Rebel with a perfect trip was concerning. His breeding suggests he can run all day, but his races suggests one turn races are best of him. He truly is a question mark.

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