Thursday, April 9, 2009

Arkansas Derby: Old Fashioned, Winn Willy II

Win Willy, the upset winner of last month’s Rebel Stakes, and Old Fashioned, the beaten favorite in that race, head a field of 10 for the 73rd running of the $1,000,000 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. The mile-and-an-eighth fixture for three-year-olds anchors Oaklawn’s prestigious Racing Festival of the South.

The Arkansas Derby will be telecast live on ESPN2 from 6:00-7:00 p.m. (ET) on “NTRA Racing to the Kentucky Derby”. Also on the telecast, via same-day tape, will be the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, run earlier on Saturday at Keeneland.

Win Willy shook the racing world with his last-to-first rally to capture the March 14 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn on March 14.The gray son of Monarchos was making his first start around two turns in the Rebel. The win marked the third score in a row for the Mac Robertson trainee and placed him in the middle of the national picture of horses headed for the Kentucky Derby. Cliff Berry, who brought his mount to victory in the Rebel, has the return call on Win Willy, who was 56-1 in his win in the Rebel. For Saturday, however, he is pegged as the 7-2 second choice in the Arkansas Derby morning line.

Filling the role as favorite once again will be Old Fashioned, the gray son of Unbridled’s Song who was considered a top favorite for the Triple Crown races until his upset in the Rebel. Prior to that race, Old Fashioned had won all of his four starts, the last three by a combined margin of 26 lengths. Chasing a quick pace by Silver City in the Rebel, Old Fashioned had no response when challenged by Win Willy in the final furlong, but was still eight lengths clear of the rest of the field.

Trainer Larry Jones has selected jockey Terry Thompson to replace Ramon Dominguez on Old Fashioned for the Arkansas Derby. Jones has enjoyed considerable success with Thompson at Oaklawn and the rider, well in front in his quest for the local crown, is expected to try to get the talented horse to rate kindly and have more punch for the longer distance of the Arkansas Derby.

Local observers have been impressed by what they’ve seen of Papa Clem in training over the Oaklawn oval in recent weeks. Second in both the Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita and the Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds, the son of Smart Strike could very well set the pace under jockey Rafael Bejarano and be tough to catch.

The complete field for the Arkansas Derby, in post position order, is: Captain Cherokee (jockey: Aaron Gryder, morning line odds: 20-1); Papa Clem (Rafael Bejarano, 6-1); Flat Out (Julio Garcia, 10-1); Poltergeist (Quincy Hamilton, 20-1); Ziegfeld (Jon Court, 12-1); Flying Private (Israel Ocampo, 6-1); Summer Bird (Chris Rosier, 30-1); Old Fashioned (Terry Thompson, 9-5); Win Willy (Cliff Berry, 7-2); and Danger to Society (Cornelio Velasquez, 6-1).-- NTRA

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