2017 Arkansas Derby-G1, Race 11, Oaklawn Park, Saturday, April 15, 2017
3-Year-Olds, 1 1/8-miles, Dirt, Purse: $1 Million
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The Arkansas Derby-G1 is the final major Kentucky Derby prep for 2017 and there are two very good reasons to watch it, and bet on it if you can get the right price.
Morning-line favorite Classic Empire is still considered one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby, but his star was tarnished when he finished a tired third beaten 8 3/4-lengths in his only start this year in the Holy Bull Stakes-G2 at Gulfstream Park on February 4. Last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile-G1 winner should move forward off that race, but at a short price we're not buying.
Much more intriguing is undefeated Rebel Stakes-G2 winner Malagacy. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Malagacy wasn't really expected to win the Rebel despite his 3-1 odds, but he was clearly best in that race sitting just off the pace and drawing away late. That was his first stakes try from three career starts and he also defeated a few of today's entrants in that race.
Pletcher's horses generally don't do anything out of the ordinary. They run to their talent level and when the going gets tough they just don't seem to step it up a notch. But Malagacy looks like he may not have reached his talent level yet. He still has room to improve. He looked almost green in his Rebel win, he's a big good looking horse, and top jockey Javier Castellano sticks with him. If you can get the morning-line odds of 2-1 on him he's the play.
A horse that does figure to be under-bet in here is Petrov. Listed at 12-1 on the morning line, he finished fourth in the Rebel, but he was only beaten two noses for the place position by fellow Arkansas Derby entrants Sonneteer and Untrapped, who will both take more money in here.
There is not a lot of real speed in the Rebel but there is a bunch who can sit close. Rockin Rudy, Grandpa's Dream and Conquest Mo Money could be the pacesetters followed closely by Malagacy, Petrov and Classic Empire. We're guessing the winner is coming from the latter three and Malagacy will be our play based on talent if not he's not over bet.
The best of the ralliers for the superfecta are Sonneteer, Untrapped and Lookin at Lee, but Silver Dust is worth a closer look as a longshot with blinkers on. He could improve off his fifth place finish in the Rebel.
What we're really looking for in the Arkansas Derby is horses that might be good longshots for the Kentucky Derby on Saturday May 6, 2017 at Churchill Downs, but we'll bet Malagacy to win at 2-1 or better and take him in the exactas, trifectas and superfectas first and second with Classic Empire, Silver Dust, Petrov, Lookin at Lee, Sonnateer, Untrapped and Conquest Mo Money. Silver Dust will be our small win-place flyer longshot play up and down in the exactas with the blinkers added.
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