by Eddie Olczyk
April 30, 2020
Before we get into handicapping any races, I would like to thank all of our first responders and essential workers. Please stay smart and safe everyone, and let’s get through this COVID-19 pandemic together. I can’t wait to see you back at the track soon!
It’s ‘Derby Week’ and even though Saturday’s main events are taking place about 570 miles southwest of Louisville, I have to commend the folks at Oaklawn Park for putting together a phenomenal 14-race card. At the very least, Saturday’s Arkansas Derby card can hopefully tide us over as we prepare for the First Saturday in September at Churchill Downs.
I chose to focus on the Arkansas Derby Late Pick 4 Saturday (Races 11 – 14), which is headlined by three stakes races – the split divisions of the G1 Arkansas Derby and the G2 Oaklawn Handicap. The Pick 4 is one of horse racing’s most popular bets and challenges us to pick the winner of four straight races, often with significant payouts for those who are successful.
Here’s my take:
Race 11 (6:29PM ET) – Arkansas Derby (G1; $500K)
Sometimes when betting the races you just have to take the FREE square on the Bingo board and avoid getting in your own way. Bob Baffert’s #1 CHARLATAN (1/1) is the best horse in this race and, perhaps, the best three-year-old in the country. He’ll need to prove that, though. But on Saturday, with the only other speed horse in the race - #6 SHOOTERS SHOOT – already an announced scratch, CHARLATAN can be expected to break running and not look back.
Race 12 (7:04PM ET) – Oaklawn Handicap (G2; $600K)
Singling Charlatan in the first leg gives me the opportunity to shoot for the moon and press the ALL button in the 14-horse Oaklawn Handicap. There are a number of very talented horses in this race, from last year’s Wood Memorial winner #9 TACITUS (9/2) to this year’s Santa Anita Handicap victor, #7 COMBATANT (4/1). Using ALL of them lets me sit back, watch and hope a longshot gets the job done. If you asked me to give my top picks in here, I’d tell you I really like #2 TROPHY CHASER (12/1) and #7 COMBATANT. Both have great stalking styles and TROPHY CHASER has really impressed me in his last two starts. This has been a different horse since stretching around two turns.
Race 13 (7:43PM ET) – Arkansas Derby (G1; $500K)
Bob Baffert is represented here by #5 NADAL (5/2), a speedy undefeated son of Blame that overcame a wicked pace duel to win the G2 Rebel Stakes in the slop at Oaklawn on March 14. He is going to face pace pressure from #11 WELLS BAYOU (7/2), #4 KING GUILLERMO (3/1) and potentially #9 TAISHAN (15/1). NADAL is the best of them so he is on my ticket along with the best two closers, #7 SILVER PROSPECTOR (10/1) and #10 FARMINGTON ROAD (12/1). I’m also going to keep KING GUILLERMO, who ran a great race in the Tampa Bay Derby and could get a dream trip from just behind NADAL and WELLS BAYOU, if they duel up front.
Race 14 (8:14PM ET) – Starter Allowance ($50K)
Oaklawn’s traditional meet-closing race is a 1 3/4-mile starter allowance and I am going to try and get through my Late Pick 4 by using three of these - #5 CARLOS SIXES (4/1), #8 GHOSTLY WHO (12/1) and #12 SHE MIGHT TELL (10/1). CARLOS SIXES looks to be the class of the field. He has won three times since February 20 and is in phenomenal form. GHOSTLY WHO figures to get a good forward trip from his post and let’s assume he didn’t like the slop in his most recent race. SHE MIGHT TELL is a consistent closer and a mare racing against the boys. I’ll trust Joe Talamo, who has been racing well at the meet, to work out a trip from an outside draw.
Race 11: 1
Race 12: ALL
Race 13: 4, 5, 7, 10
Race 14: 5, 8, 12
Ticket Cost: $84 for 50-cents
[Editor's Note: Due to the scratch of #14 Improbable in Race 12 - the Oaklawn Handicap, Eddie's new Late Pick 4 ticket cost is $78 for 50-cents]