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Jockey Joe Bravo celebrates after winning the Arkansas Derby aboard Danza
The highlight race of the Oaklawn Park spring meeting is the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1), run at 1 1/8 miles on closing day and worth 100 points for the Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying system. The crowd of 63,186 enjoyed sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80's at the historic Hot Springs oval. Bayern was sent off as the 8-5 favorite in the field of 8, undefeated in 2 starts and making his stakes debut here. In to challenge him included 2-1 second choice Tapiture, second in the Rebel (G2) after winning the Southwest (G3) both at Oaklawn, and 6-1 third choice Commissioner off a third place finish in the Sunland Derby (G3).
Shortly after the start of the Arkansas Derby with Bayern leading
Also check out Close Hatches winning the Apple Blossom and Will Take Charge winning the Oaklawn Handicap during the Racing Festival of the South at Oaklawn.
Past winners of the Arkansas Derby
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 1 Danza Bravo 84.60 28.40 11.00 4 Ride On Curlin Court 7.00 4.00 8 Bayem Stevens 4.00 Winning Time: 1:49.68 $2 Exacta 1-4 561.40 $1 Trifecta 1-4-8 1,323.00 $1 Superfecta 1-4-8-3 2,997.40
Left: Danza in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Todd Pletcher said, "We were searching for the right race and the right option and it seemed like the Arkansas Derby was the race for us to step out and take our shot. We're certainly very excited that we did and very proud of the way the horse ran today. I don't remember winning a Grade 1 at 40-1, but it's not very often that our horses pay those type of mutuels. We narrowed it down between the Blue Grass and the Arkansas Derby and it we thought the race would set up a little better there. Also with dirt, that was the tie breaker. We like the way both horses were training and anticipated Commissioner running better than he did. Danza came in fresher with only one start this year. Both horses were training well coming in to the race. It wasn't Commissioner's day. I wasn't aware of his antics until after the race. But, I would have to think that it effected his performance in a negative way."
Right: Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe presents the trophy for the Arkansas Derby. Aron Wellman, president of owner Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, is on the far right.
Left: Danza in the infield walking ring.
Right: Danza warms up before the race. Winning jockey Joe Bravo said, "That was a pretty great effort. Todd was pretty high on the horse and he told me this morning that he was going to be fresh so don' take anything away from him. Try to save as much as you can and let him run his race. It was textbook, just textbook. Everything unfolded like a dream. That was pretty cool down the lane. It's really fun to have a special horse like that and have him run like that. I'm not a fortune teller, but hopefully, in a couple of weeks we can do that again. I'm crossing my fingers he's my Derby horse. This is what dreams are made of. You've got to take your hat off to Todd Pletcher. He knows how to bring them around at the right time of the year. Nobody does it year in and year out the way he does. I'm so happy for (owner) Mr. Wellman and Eclipse Thoroughbreds. They put so much into the game. They deserve and good one, and I think they've got him."
Left: Second place finisher Ride On Curlin in the infield walking ring. Jockey Jon Court said, "Everything came together and he's been pressed his last couple of races. Actually, he tested me on the backside like it's time to go. I had to just put him in a position to settle and I knew I had a lot of horse turning for home. I was kind of taken back to see the one horse just continue coming off that 7/8.I thought he was making a move and I made my move and he out finished us. He's to be respected, it was a good field of horse flesh."
Right: Third place finisher and beaten favorite Bayern in the post parade. Jockey Gary Stevens said, "I had a good comfortable trip, a nice comfortable pace and it picked up nice. Approaching the 1/4 pole, the winner came up inside of me. I thought I was going to be able to stay with him and I thought my horse was going to give him a little fight, but he didn't."
Left: The horses enter the infield walking ring with eventual winner Danza leading the way.
Right: At the head of the stretch in the Arkansas Derby with Danza leading. Luis Saez aboard last place finisher (post 9) Strong Mandate said, "At the 1/2 mile pole, he didn't respond the way I thought that he would."
Winning trainer Kellyn Gorder said, "This is a nice way to end the meet for sure. I talked with my assistant, Johnny Ortiz this morning, and we both agreed that speed appeared to be holding, but I didn't want to take him out of his game. He's a better stalker or coming from mid pack. I can't say enough about the ride that Ramon (Vazquez) gave him. He's worked the last few times in blinkers. It wasn't so much to put speed in him, but to keep him focused in the lane."
Results Chart from DRF.
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