2014 Arkansas Derby Picks – Race Analysis

2014 Arkansas Derby Picks and Analysis

Arkansas Derby-G1, Race 11, Oaklawn Park, Saturday, April 12, 2014

3-Year-Olds, 1 1/8-miles, Dirt, Purse: $1 Million

2014 Arkansas Derby Picks

1. Bayern

2. Tapiture

3. Commissioner

4. Conquest Titan

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2014 Arkansas Derby Analysis

We’re going to go against one of our rules in this year’s Arkansas Derby and pick Bayern to win.

Normally we wouldn’t pick a horse coming into this race off romping wins, but there are reasons to think differently this time.

Tapiture is the logical choice in this year’s Arkansas Derby off a troubled half-length loss in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 15. In that race, he stalked a pressured pace and was bumped repeatedly while trying to get out in the stretch to make his run. After much bashing and smashing, Tapiture eventually found room and did respond gamely to finish second behind Hoppertunity, who came back in his next start to finish second in the Santa Anita Derby-G1, but we’re wondering if that race might have taken something out of him. Additionally, trainer Steve Asmussen is dealing with a world of controversy these days and that may also have an effect on how he has prepared Tapiture for this race.

Tapiture gets a rider switch to top jock Joel Rosario for this race and he’s also proven under fire, so we certainly can’t argue with anyone who goes with him regardless of his short price as the morning-line favorite. Second choice Bayern is just a little more intriguing as a fresh, undefeated horse on his way up for trainer Bob Baffert.

Bayern has only run twice. He broke his maiden by 3 1/4-lenths at Santa Anita going seven furlongs on January 4 and came back to crush a first level allowance field by 15 lengths going 1 1/16-miles on February 13 going a mile. The beaten field in his maiden win included the aforementioned Rebel Stakes winner Hoppertunity. The beaten field in his allowance win included Tap It Rich, fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile-G1 last year. So Bayern does have a touch of class to him.

In both of his races, Bayern rated on or close to the lead before accelerating away from decent fields, yet you still got the impression he had something left in the tank. He’ll need that going 1 1/8-miles for the first time, but he does seem to have enough pedigree. His sire won the Suburban-G1 going 1 1/4-miles and his dam has produced two route winners. Additionally, Bayern’s trainer Bob Baffert won the Arkansas Derby with Bodemeister in 2012 and jockey Gary Stevens has won this race twice in the past.

The only knock against Bayern is the fact that he isn’t a proven fighter, but that’s not his fault at this point, as he hasn’t had the opportunity. Horseswho have to battle in the stretch naturallyget fitter than horses who are romping winners. You’ve read that here before, a good example being our referenceto Social Inclusion, who finished third in last weekend’s Wood Memorial as the favorite. (We picked the 9-1 winner Wicked Strong.)

On paper it appears that there is other speed in the Arkansas Derby, but we’re also wondering if Bayern might be able to sneak to an early lead and steal the race. If they underestimate him he could be long gone. Listed at 2-1 on the morning line, we’re thinking that would be good value.

This year’s Arkansas Derby sets up with Strong Mandate, Ride On Curlin, Thundergram and possibly Bayern on the lead early. Right behind them will be Tapiture trying to work out a perfect trip. A little further back will be Commissioner and Conquest Titan. If Bayern doesn’t run away from this bunch early (or late), Tapiture is the most likely winner, with Commissioner and Conquest Titan rallying behind him at decent odds. Strong Mandate has also come from off the pace in the past, but he just can’t seem to figure out what is best running style is.

At 2-1, we’ll take Bayern.

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