HOT SPRINGS, AR – Just two races after winning his third edition of the race, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert saddled Nadal to give him his fourth career score in Saturday’s 2nd division of the $500,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park.
Breaking well from post 5 under Joel Rosario as the 4/5 favorite, Nadal sat just to the outside and off of the early pace that the outside-breaking Wells Bayou was hell-bent on securing. Nadal raced within a length as Wells Bayou posted quick opening fractions of :23.08, :46.21, and 1:09.85.
Given the freedom to move forward as he rounded the far turn, Nadal hit the top of the stretch with a slim lead and began drawing away impressively as he straightened for home. Rosario peeked back to make sure nobody was coming before riding Nadal home in hand to secure victory.
Nadal crossed 3 lengths clear while completing the 1 1/8-mile event in a final time of 1:48.34, which was 0.15 seconds faster than his stablemate Charlatan one race prior.
“He looked good,” Rosario said. “Very good race. He sat off that horse and then took care of the rest. He’s a champ.”
King Guillermo, a 49/1 upset winner of the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) last time out, was unable to pull a second upset, but he still dug down deep to hold second by 1 1/2 lengths over Finnick the Fierce. Closing from last to take fourth was Farmington Road, while behind him came a weakened Wells Bayou, Storm the Court, Silver Prospector, Code Runner, and Taishan to complete the order of finish.
Saratogian and Fast Enough were scratched.
The Arkansas Derby is part of the Road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Nadal earned 100 points for the win, with King Guillermo receiving 40 for second, Finnick the Fierce 20 for third, and Farmington Road 10 for fourth.
Nadal’s win was his fourth in as many starts and his third at the graded stakes level, having previously won the San Vicente Stakes (G2) and the local Rebel Stakes (G2). The 3-year-old son of Blame became racing’s newest millionaire, increasing his earnings mark to $1,053,000 for co-owners George Bolton, Arthur Hoyeau, Barry Lipman, and Mark Mathiesen.
“I just have to thank the timing,” Bolton said. “He had six weeks between starts. He went back to California and Bob worked him behind horses three times. I thought if there was speed today, he could sit off it. He had a much more comfortable trip than in the Rebel when he was attacked by three different challengers. I was very proud. He finished well. I have a secret. Bob called me two days ago and said he wanted me to come. He said he thought he’d run big and wanted me there.”
Nadal returned $3.80 to win, $3.40 to place, and $3.20 to show. King Guillermo brought back $5.20 to place and $4.20 to show, while Finnick the Fierce paid $13.20 to show.