Three starters projected for the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 2 recorded their final drives at a fast track Saturday morning in Oaklawn.
The trio of workers included Un Ojo, the one-eyed gelding who recorded an upset victory in the last major Arkansas Derby build-up at Oaklawn, the Rebel Stakes (G2) on Feb. 26, for Louisiana-based trainer Ricky Courville.
An Ojo fended for itself after the surface renovation break under winning Rebel driver Ramon Vazquez and completed a half mile in :48.80. The gelding galloped five furlongs in 1:02.
“Easy half, in hand,” said Clay Courville, who assists his father and regularly gallops Un Ojo. “Just maintenance work. Northing hard. Just something to make him happy.
An Ojo was a breeze for the second time since winning the 1 1/16 mile Rebel at 75-1 odds. An Ojo arrived Wednesday afternoon after a 5.5-hour van ride from his southern Louisiana base, The Training Center At Copper Crowne. An Ojo returned to the working tab on March 19 at the Copper Crowne Training Center, clocking 5 furlongs in 1:03.
Working a half mile about 15 minutes after the track opened at 7 a.m. (CT) was We the People undefeated for trainer Rodolphe Brisset. We the People, as it normally does, was in company, this time with Triple Crown contender and stablemate Kuchar, who is tipped for the $150,000 Oaklawn Stakes on April 23. 00.80 under Brisset, his usual morning partner.
“Very well,” Brisset said. “Usual work for him. The same job we did last time before the allowance – : 48, one minute and change – galloped hard. Just a seven-day maintenance job. It was really good. I hope he did well and we’ll go from there.
Ben Diesel was also working at the company right after the track opened for trainer Dallas Stewart. A full brother to Girls Secret, winner of multiple Oaklawn appearances, Ben Diesel recorded a 5 furlong (:59) ball under regular driver Jon Court. Ben Diesel got along well with stablemate Last Samurai, who won the $150,000 Poinsettia Stakes for 3-year-olds on Dec. 11.
Positions for the Arkansas Derby will be drawn Sunday at 12:30 p.m. (CT) in Larry Snyder’s Winner’s Circle. The Arkansas Derby will offer 170 points (100-40-20-10 respectively) to the top four finishers for starting eligibility in the Kentucky Derby, which is limited to 20 starters.
The Oaklawn Racing Department listed nine likely Saturday morning, with a handful more still being considered for the 1 1/8 mile race. Confirmed starters are Barber Road for trainer John Ortiz, Ben Diesel, Call Me Jamal (Mike Puhich), Chasing Time (Steve Asmussen), Cyberknife (Brad Cox), Doppelganger (Tim Yakteen), Secret Oath (D. Wayne Lukas ), an Ojo and we the people.
Oaklawn-based Barber Road and Call Me Jamal are expected to have their final Arkansas Derby jobs on Sunday morning, their respective coaches said.
Secret Oath, which will face men for the first time, won all three of its starts at the meeting by a combined 23 lengths. She won an allowance race on December 31 at 1 mile by 8 ¼ lengths, $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes on January 29 by 7 ¼ lengths, and the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) on February 26 by 7 ½ lengths. The Martha Washington and the Honeybee were 1 1/16 miles away.
Secret Oath, with 60 points for its Honeybee and Martha Washington wins, leads the Kentucky Oaks standings. The Arrogate daughter had been considered for the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles on April 2 – Oaklawn’s last major preparation at the Kentucky Oaks – before aiming for the Arkansas Derby.
Lukas won the Arkansas Derby in 1984 with Althea, a week after finishing second in Fantasy. Lukas finished third in the 1986 Arkansas Derby with another filly, Family Style, a week after finishing fourth in Fantasy. Althea and Family Style both won the Eclipse Prize at 2 years old.
Chasing Time and Ben Diesel finished 5-8 respectively in the Rebel, while We the People took a five-length entry-level allowance win at 1 1/16 miles on March 12. Lands at his last start.
The Southern California-based doppelganger had been with Hall of Fame coach Bob Baffert – a four-time Arkansas Derby winner – before being moved earlier this week to Yakteen, a former assistant . Horses trained by Baffert were ineligible to collect qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby due to his two-year ban by Churchill Downs. He is also expected to begin serving a 90-day suspension on April 4, penalties stemming from the disqualification of his 2021 Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, due to a medication violation.
Doppelganger, placed in 2nd year, covered 5 furlongs in 1:00.20 on Saturday morning in Santa Anita. Cyberknife covered the same distance in 1:01.80 on Saturday morning at Fair Grounds.
The $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1), the nation’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies, will be held May 6 at Churchill Downs. The $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1), the first leg of the Triple Crown, will take place on May 7 at Churchill Downs.
In addition to the Arkansas Derby and Fantasy, post positions will also be raffled on Sunday for three other April 2 stakes races – $400,000 Oaklawn Mile (G3) for older horses, $200,000 Carousel for fillies and mares at 6 furlongs and the $150,000 Temperence Hill for older horses at 1 ½ miles.
Among the fantasy issues listed Saturday morning by the Oaklawn racing department were Beguine, Bubble Rock, Dream Lith, Heartyconstitution, I Feel the Need, Magic Circle, Under the Stars and Yuugiri.