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Farmington Road, Taishan Pointing to Arkansas Derby
Mr. Big News (right) defeats Farmington Road in the Oaklawn Stakes (Credit: Coady Photography)

Farmington Road, Taishan Pointing to Arkansas Derby

HOT SPRINGS, AR – Connections for both Farmington Road and Taishan, the second- and third-place finishers from last Saturday’s Oaklawn Stakes, have confirmed that the colts are now pointing to the $750,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) on May 2 at Oaklawn Park.

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With the Oaklawn Stakes awarding the top-three finishers automatic berths into the Arkansas Derby, Todd Pletcher (trainer for Farmington Road) and the Richard Baltas (Taishan) are planning to take advantage of the opportunity afforded them. Sent postward as the race’s 5/2 second choice, Taishan led off of the far turn but could not withstand the late-running duo of Farmington Road and Mr. Big News, who defeated Farmington Road by a 1/2-length.

“I don’t see why we shouldn’t take a shot,” Baltas said. “I think the horse is doing well. … I thought he ran well. It was a very hot pace, he was parked wide, he made a little premature move, I think. He was actually one of the few horses that actually didn’t … the other horses came from way far back. They were flying. Obviously, we were hoping at the top of the lane that he would keep going. In hindsight, to look at the chart, it looked like he ran a pretty good race.”

Pletcher confirmed via text message to Oaklawn Park’s media department that Farmington Road would stay in Arkansas after previously being based in Florida. Pletcher added blinkers for the Oaklawn Stakes, his first start since running fourth in one of the split Risen Star Stakes (G2) events at Fair Grounds.

Mr. Big News defeats Farmington Road in the Oaklawn Stakes (Credit: Coady Photography)

Trainer Bret Calhoun, however, is less bullish on sending Mr. Big News back to Oaklawn Park for another race just three weeks later. The day after winning the Oaklawn Stakes, which also awarded him a berth in the Preakness Stakes (G1), Mr. Big News shipped back to Calhoun’s base at Fair Grounds. Calhoun confirmed via text message to the Oaklawn Park media department that his colt was doing well, but that he was “not sure about the Arkansas Derby yet.”

Like Farmington Road, Mr. Big News was making his first appearance since running fifth in the Risen Star Stakes (G2), though he competed in the second of the two split events. Both horses failed to draw into the Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds after being placed on the Also Eligibles list.

Other probable contenders for the Arkansas Derby include the Rebel Stakes (G2) winner Nadal and sharp allowance winner Charlatan (both from trainer Bob Baffert), Pletcher trainee Gouverneur Morris, and a pair of Steve Asmussen trainees in Pneumatic and Silver Prospector.

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