by Jerry Shottenkirk
April 29, 2020
Just past the midway point in the Oaklawn Park Saturday is what I see as the beginning of the best of the Pick 4 opportunities on Arkansas Derby card.
While the split Arkansas Derby and Oaklawn Handicap are obvious reasons to pay attention to the action, the Pick 4 just prior (races 6-9) to those outstanding races looks like a good money-making chance. There are no stakes races in this sequence, but it’s comprised of full and well-balanced fields.
The seventh and ninth races are the best for shorter numbers on the suggested ticket. But the sixth and eighth are more of a challenge and look like they require more numbers. The approach this week is 4x2x5x3 for $60 in the 50-cent exotic play.
Race 6 (3:44PM ET) -- Maiden
Nine-furlong maiden races are generally difficult as many of the entrants have just not their best chance in races from six furlongs on up to 1 1-16th miles. A lot of times additional ground or slower fractions are is needed, and several fall under those categories. Wild Union has had nine chances to break his maiden but might be in a good spot today and is usable. He never threatened in the slop last out and generally does his best running when he gets to the lead. He’ll probably try to steal. Friar’s Road is in from Santa Anita, has had only two starts and improved with distance in his second try. There’s every reason to believe he’ll enjoy the 1 1-8th miles. Hunt the Frost already has established himself as a deep, deep closer, looks like he’ll go along with the distance and can be the one late if the front runners falter. Absolute Unit was third in his only Oaklawn start after a couple of good performances at Santa Anita. He has enough speed to overcome the outside post and is a legit threat.
Race 7 (4:16PM) – Optional Claiming ($100K)
This is the potential to look like a match race between Gamine and Speech. If Gamine is able to step up nicely off the tremendous maiden score in her debut, it might not even that. Gamine won by 6 1-4 lengths in her only start, which was at 6.5 furlongs, and the $1.8 million purchase will be a short price. Speech has more experience and was second in the G2 Santa Ysabel. If Gamine ends up not enjoying the two turns, Speech certainly has the talent to take advantage.
Race 8 (4:47PM) – Allowance ($61K)
The eighth race is a free-for-all. Fortheluvofbourbon, Fra Mauro, Caribbean, Don Vito Corleone, and Moretti all appear to have legit chances. Caribbean has stellar recent form and steps up into the allowance ranks. He’s certainly taken a liking to Oaklawn after beginning his career in southern California. After a maiden win by 11 lengths, he lost to next-time winner Parade Field by a head and then won N2L claiming race by 9 1-4. The competition is better in this one, but he’s to be taken seriously. Don Vito Corleone was overlooked in his debut and won by 1 1-4 lengths going 1 1-16th mile. Distance winners first time out of the box aren’t an everyday occurrence. He was 25-1 that day; won’t be that today. Fortheluvofbourbon, Fra Mauro and Moretti are all in decent form, well connected and worthy of inclusion on the ticket.
Race 9 (5:19PM) – Optional Claiming ($40K)
The finale in this sequence looks like it comes down to the trio of Popular Kid, Fearless, and Rotation. Popular Kid is the horse for the course, and despite making big steps up the class ladder in his last three shouldn’t cause doubt. He was an easy winner in his first two at Oaklawn. Fearless has only three starts, won his first two and had an excuse for his sixth-place finish in the G2 New Orleans Classic. He lost his best chance when bumped at the sixteenth-pole and ultimately was rewarded fifth place via disqualification. He’s fast, can pick a good spot early and is classy enough to be a solid contender under these conditions. Rotation won the G3 Super Derby in September and was off until March, when he made a move to the lead and then was caught late in his first Oaklawn appearance of the year. He could have the best chance for improvement in his second off the layoff.
Here’s the suggested play for the Pick 4 for races 6-9 Saturday at Oaklawn Park:
Race 6: #3 Wild Union, #4 Friar’s Road, #5 Hunt the Front, #11 Absolute Unit
Race 7: #8 Gamine, #10 Speech
Race 8: #4 Fortheluvofbourbon, #5 Fra Mauro, #6 Caribbean, #7 Don Vito Corleone, #10 Moretti
Race 9: #1 Popular Kid, #3 Fearless, #7 Rotation
50-cent Pick 4: 3-4-5-11 with 8-10 with 4-5-6-7-10 with 1-3-7 ($60)