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Jockey Mike Smith celebrates after winning the Arkansas Derby aboard Omaha Beach
The highlight race of the Oaklawn Park spring meeting is the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1), for 3-year-olds run at 1 1/8 miles and worth 100 points to the winner as part of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series. Steady rain fell during the card downgrading the track to sloppy with temperatures in the mid 50's for the approximately 45,000 fans in attendance. Rebel Stakes (G2) second division winner Omaha Beach was sent off as the 8-5 favorite in the field of 11. In to challenge him included 9-5 second choice Improbable, winner of the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) then second in the Rebel (G2) first division, and 13-2 third choice Long Range Toddy, third in the Southwest (G3) before winning the Rebel (G2) first division.
Mud flies as they round the first turn in the Arkansas Derby
Also check out Lady Apple winning the Fantasy and Quip 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 3 Omaha Beach Smith 5.40 3.00 2.80 1 Improbable Ortiz 3.60 3.00 8 Country House Rosario 4.20 Winning Time: 1:49.91 $1 Exacta 3-1 7.50 $0.50 Trifecta 3-1-8 17.45 $0.10 Superfecta 3-1-8-5 31.44
Left: Omaha Beach in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Richard Mandella said, "He looked like he was well within himself and Mike (Smith) just let him enjoy his job, just stride out and go where he went. My first thought was, ‘Jeez, don't move too quick' and then I thought, ‘Don't be second-guessing Mike Smith' – one of the greatest of all times. Just appreciate having him and can't tell you how much I appreciate this horse and his owner (Rick Porter). We'd already ran in the slop at home, so that wasn't much of a concern. He's a very tractable horse. I don't think we need to pick a surface."
Right: The trophy presentation for the Arkansas Derby. Winning owner Rick Porter said, "I think the horse certainly fits with the other horses. We'll see how he comes out of the race and see how things are going. We'll decide, probably, tonight (regarding the Kentucky Derby)."
Left: Omaha Beach in the post parade. Winning jockey Mike Smith said, "I had a great trip. Little nerve wracking in the gate because a few of them didn't want to load, but he handled it all well. He got a little uptight, but then relaxed. He jumped extremely well. There were several horses that wanted the lead. Mr. Mandella has been teaching him in the morning to break off strong and then relax. He did just that. Picked a nice little spot and stayed right there. His cruising speed just takes him up there. I just basically tried to stay out of way. He's doing is to easy, I'm better off letting him than fighting him."
Right: Omaha Beach heads out to the track. Smith, asked who he will ride in the Kentucky Derby (Omaha Beach or Roadster), said, "It's a lovely decision to have. We're going to go back and see how everyone comes back and go from there. Evaluate the situation. Then my agent will make the decision. That's why I pay him."
Left: Second place finisher Improbable heads out to the post parade. Trainer Bob Baffert said, "The horse, happy with the way he ran. I was a little bit worried in the starting gate. He was acting up in there. I had a few moments there of maybe he was going to rear up or do something and get left. Luckily, they unloaded him and put him back and he left there well. I thought Jose Ortiz did a masterful job of riding him. We got beat by a good horse. They showed how these California horses are good horses."
Right: Third place finisher Country House in the infield walking ring. Trainer Bill Mott said, "We'll talk to the owners (about the Kentucky Derby). That's what we were looking for (points), and he ran well."
The post parade for the Arkansas Derby.
Shortly after the start of the Arkansas Derby. Ricardo Santana Jr. aboard fourth place finisher Laughing Fox (post 5) said, "We had a great trip. We didn't win, but I feel like we did because he improved so much off his last race. He's a good horse."