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One of the biggest and saddest weekends of the racing calendar is when Oaklawn Park holds its meet’s final races. One person who is not sad after the racing action is Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who took not one but TWO editions of the Arkansas Derby (G1). Let’s take a look at who made our latest Three Stars of the Week:
Baffert had been training Nadal to learn how to settle and stalk in his latest workouts, and after Saturday, Nadal looked like an A+ student. Despite drawing into what many considered to be the tougher of the two split editions of the Arkansas Derby, Nadal was still made the 4/5 favorite in the field of nine. Wells Bayou was pushed to the front from his far outside post, which allowed Nadal to sit just off of him for much of the early running. The training paid off when Nadal launched past Wells Bayou at the top of the stretch and drew off to win by 3 lengths under Joel Rosario. He is now perfect in four starts, three against graded stakes foes, and stamped himself as a favorite to win the Kentucky Derby (G1) in September.
The Bret Calhoun trainee brought his two-race win streak – including the New Orleans Classic Stakes (G2) – to Hot Springs in search of another big score in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2), and he delivered with a superior performance. Despite drawing post 12, jockey Gabriel Saez knew his best chance at winning was to race near the front early. He broke sharply and crossed over to run just behind Warrior’s Charge for much of the race, then ranged up alongside him through the far turn. Warrior’s Charge fought stubbornly along the rail, but By My Standards pulled ahead inside the final 1/16 of a mile to win. With the win, he secured his position atop the male handicap division heading into the summer.
Nothing like getting overshadowed by your own stablemate two races later! For a brief moment on Saturday, Baffert’s Charlatan seemed to have stamped himself as the Kentucky Derby favorite following a front-running victory as the 2/5 heavy favorite. He passed the test of having drawn the rail and held on strongly after setting fast opening fractions. Jockey Martin Garcia said after the race that Charlatan took off as soon as he felt Basin come near him, indicating that he still had plenty left in the tank despite how fast he went in the 1 1/8-mile event. It will be interesting to see how (or if) Baffert keeps Charlatan and Nadal from facing each other until the first Saturday in September.
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