2020 Arkansas Derby Picks and Betting Guide: Ranking the Field for Both Headliners at Oaklawn Park (Saturday, May 2)

2020 Arkansas Derby Picks and Betting Guide: Ranking the Field for Both Headliners at Oaklawn Park (Saturday, May 2) article feature image

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  • Check out Mike Conti's betting preview and power rankings for both races of the 2020 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.

The First Saturday in May is usually the biggest day on the horse racing calendar thanks to the presence of the Kentucky Derby. The Run for the Roses may have been moved to the first Saturday in September, but that doesn’t mean that today isn’t a huge day for horseplayers. In fact, Saturday’s card at Oaklawn Park could be the deepest we’ll see until the new Derby Day.

The action gets underway at 1 p.m. ET but the two biggest races, the split-division Arkansas Derby (they had to split today’s headliner into two races), begin at 6:29 p.m. ET.

Let’s take a good hard look at the big races:

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Race 11: Arkansas Derby, Division I

Time: 6:29 p.m. ET

The Favorite

No. 1 Charlatan (1-1)

Charlatan is the clear and obvious choice for the top spot in these power rankings.

Trainer Bob Baffert almost always has top Kentucky Derby contenders and, back in 2018, he won the Run for the Roses with Derby despite never racing him as a 2-year-old. He will try to repeat the feat with Charlatan.

Charlatan made his career debut in February winning clear by 5 3/4 lengths and then came back in March in an optional claiming race and won by 10 lengths. He’s the only horse in the race to put up triple-digit Beyer figures and he did it in both of his races.

Baffert is red hot at the Oaklawn meet. He’s sent out 11 runners and has notched wins with six of them. He’s winning at 31% when shipping in, 30% when coming off a layoff and 25% in graded stakes races.

Charlatan has been training well leading up to this spot and if speed holds at Oaklawn like it did yesterday, I’m not sure there is going to be anyone to challenge him.

[Bet Charlatan now at TVG and get your first bet 100% risk-free up to $300.]

The Contenders

No. 4 Gouverneur Morris (9-2)

Winning in a very impression fasion in his debut, this son of Constitution has done little to disappoint since.

In that debut score, he was able to overcome a troubled trip to win in hand by nine lengths. Next time out, in the G1 Breeders Futurity, he ran second to Maxfield to close out his 2-year-old season. Gouverneur Morris came back for his 3-year-old campaign at Tampa, where he won in what seemed to be a freshening, before he ran fourth in the G1 Florida Derby.

If you like the every-other-race angle, Gouverneur Morris has four career starts and has alternated wins. Constitution’s current three-year crop has done nothing to disappoint and his running style should put him up close, the question will be can he find enough late to kick past Charlatan.

No. 11 Basin (8-1)

This son of Liam’s Map had a great start to his career last summer; breaking his maiden at Saratoga in his second career start, and then winning the G1 Hopeful.

He was sent to the sidelines and hasn’t done much to speak of in his two races since returning. The first start of his 3-year-old campaign was in the G2 Rebel where he ran into some traffic at the 1/4 pole, but was able to get up for show.

In his most recent start, a non-graded stakes race, he fell back early and was even late. Ricardo Santana Jr., who rode him in his first two starts, gets back aboard for trainer Steve Asmussen. Santana is Asmussen’s top jock and rode Basin to one of his two career wins.

Getting back onto a fast main track and the outside post should also help Basin in this spot. He’s certainly one to use at the price.

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No. 9 Winning Impression (15-1)

Since breaking his maiden late last year, Winning Impression hasn’t crossed the wire worse than third. His most recent start, which was his first off the layoff, was right here at Oaklawn. While he crossed the wire in first, he was DQ’ed and placed fifth. That race was over a sloppy track and as we know (think Maximum Security in last year’s Kentucky Derby), a sloppy track can provide footing challenges for horses.

While he’s taking a big step up in class to race graded-stakes competition for the first time, he’s a competitive horse and he’s been training well leading up to this spot. Jockey Julien Leparoux seems to always find a way to pull a massive upset in big races and he will be looking to do that here.

He’s one you can’t leave off your tickets at the price.

No. 8 Anneau d’Oro (6-1)

Anneau d’Oro turned heads in his 2-year-old. He won at first asking over the turf and took a big step up in class in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile where he outran his odds to finish second by a head. He came back in the G2 Los Al Futurity and again finished second, this time by a neck. He then went to the sidelines to get ready for his 3-year-old season.

His first, and only, start as a 3-year-old was in the G2 Risen Star where he was never a factor. Anneau d’Oro did have a couple excuses in his last start; he was bumped at the start and then was in tight, while 5-6 wide, but he gets jockey Juan Hernandez back in the irons, who clearly knows him well.

Two big questions in this spot for Anneau d’Oro are can he get back to his form from his 2-year-old season and can he overcome his middle post position.

I’ll be looking to others.

Longshots to use in exotics

No. 2 My Friends Beer (20-1)

My Friends Beer will also be taking a big step up in class in today’s race.

It took the son of Stay Thirsty five tries to break his maiden and he did so against maiden claiming competition in his only career win. He hasn’t missed the board since the, but he’s been facing much less. His running style also doesn’t seem to fit the track bias, as he’s one who likes to come from off the pace.

He doesn’t stand a chance to win, but depending how deep you want to go underneath in your exotics, he’s one to consider.

No. 3 Mo Mosa (30-1)

Mo Mosa started his career on the synthetic, where he never finished out of the money. He then made the switch over to the dirt in the G2 Tampa Bay Derby where he finished dead last by 44 lengths. It didn’t seem like he appreciated the kickback in his face and was through early.

Since then, he was given another chance on the dirt right here at Oaklawn in an optional claiming race. He seemed to do better taking dirt in his face and was able to rally from the back to finish third at odds of 53-1.

He showed improvement and we know that the son of Uncle Mo can get the distance, so if the track plays more evenly today, watch out for him coming late.

[Bet Mo Mosa now at TVG and get your first bet 100% risk-free up to $300.]

Horses to toss

No. 10 Crypto Cash (20-1)

Trainer Kenny McPeak scored a big upset in yesterday’s Fantasy Stakes with Swiss Skydiver and will be looking to do it again today with Crypto Cash.

He’s had an interesting career up to this point, racing over three different surfaces and three different tracks. In his two dirt starts, both as a maiden, he finished second and first respectively, indicating he clearly likes the dirt.

After his maiden score he was moved to the turf where he was able to get up in time at the wire over a yielding turf course at Churchill Downs against allowance company.

Crypto Cash tried the all-weather surface in his 3-year-old debut and didn’t fare as well, gaining late to finish fourth by 5 3/4 lengths.

While he’s been training well and McPeak had the big upset yesterday, the jump up in class and the layoff are enough for me to look elsewhere.

No. 5 Jungle Runner (30-1)

At the bottom of the power rankings is Jungle Runner. The homebred for Calumet Farm has two wins from seven career starts and he’s always faced lesser competition, both in terms of the class of races and the tracks he’s been running at.

In his two starts as a 3-year-old he’s finished a combined 40 lengths behind the winners. While he’s bred well, sired by Candy Ride and out of a Tapit dam, he has too much to overcome in this spot. Toss.

Race 13: Arkansas Derby, Division II

Time: 7:43 p.m. ET

The Favorite

No. 5 Nadal (5-2)

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Baffert has the two favorites and they are the two to beat in the Arkansas Derby races.

Just like his stablemate, Nadal is coming in undefeated and did not race as a 2-year-old. After breaking his maiden, this son of Blame stepped up to win the G2 San Vicente at Santa Anita by 3/4 of a length.

Baffert then shipped him to Oaklawn to run in the G2 Rebel where he won in gate-to-wire fashion in the slop. Since then he’s posted five workouts, three of them being bullets, with his most recent being 5 furlongs in 59 1/5 seconds for the best out of 46 runners that day.

He will face pressure from some of the other speed in the race, but he’s proven to be tough and resilient. Nadal will be the one to beat.

[Bet Nadal now at TVG and get your first bet 100% risk-free up to $300.]

The Contenders

No. 7 Silver Prospector (10-1)

Trainer Steve Asmussen sends out Silver Prospector for Ed & Susie Orr. He has three wins and two seconds from 9 career starts. After starting his career on the turf, he broke his maiden first time out on the dirt. He won the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club over Finnick the Fierce and top Kentucky Derby contender Tiz the Law to finish his 2-year-old season.

Silver Prospector started his 3-year-old in the Smarty Jones where he finished a distant fourth. He came back in the G3 Southwest Stakes to win over rival Wells Bayou. In his most recent start, the G2 Rebel, he was between horses and looked to be poised to make a big run coming into the far turn, but didn’t have anything left coming for home against Nadal.

He’s a horse who has alternated wins in each of his last six races. While he wasn’t a threat to Nadal last time, this time could be a different story with the added pace in here. Silver Prospector should be able to sit a stalking trip and if he has the kick we’ve seen before, he stands a big chance at a great price.

No. 11 Wells Bayou (7-2)

Wells Bayou proved himself in the G2 Louisiana Derby last time out, winning in gate-to-wire fashion by 1.5 lengths. He has three wins and one second from five career starts. That second-place finish was the in the G3 Southwest, where he finished a length behind Silver Prospector after setting the early fractions.

His outside post position should help him as he won’t need to navigate traffic, but he will need to have a lean break to pressure Nadal. Trainer Brad Cox is winning at 21% during the current meet, 21% in graded stakes races and 28% when winning the last race.

You’ll need to get a good price to make a win bet, but he’s one that definitely is going to be in contention.

Longshots to use in exotics

No. 10 Farmington Road (12-1)

Trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Javier Castellano team up with this son of Quality Road. Farmington Road took three tries to break his maiden. He then stepped up to face graded-stakes company in the G2 Risen Star where he was caught 5-6 wide on both turns and was 8 wide in the lane, causing him to finish fourth by 4 1/2 lengths.

In his most recent start, the Oaklawn Stakes, he finished a half a length behind the eventual winner after making a big move on the turn. With as much pace as in here, watch out for Farmington Road to be flying late, picking up the pieces of what should be a contentious pace. He’s a must use underneath in your exotics.

No. 3 Storm the Court (6-1)

Who didn’t love seeing Britney Eurton cheer on her dad’s horse coming for home in the G1 Breeders Cup Juvenile and then getting to interview him after the win. That was the last time Storm the Court saw the winner’s circle though. He ran fourth behind Nadal in the G2 San Vicente and third behind Authentic in the G2 San Felipe at Santa Anita earlier this year. Clearly he will need to find a way to beat Nadal in here, but he’s proven to be tough. This will be his first start outside of southern California. Trainer Peter Eurton is only 15% when shipping in and a dismal 8% in graded stakes races.

While he’s shown he can hang with some of the best, I don’t know as though he’s good enough to win against a tough, deep field like this, but he’s one to use underneath in exotics.

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Horses to toss

No. 4 King Guillermo (3-1)

King Guillermo was able to pull off a massive upset in the G2 Tampa Bay Derby, winning at odds of 49-1. Now that we’ve had some time to see some of these horses come back, it appears it was a fairly weak race, not producing much.

While he still deserves credit for the win, he’s not fast enough to compete with Nadal, Wells Bayou or Storm the Court for the early pace in here. Seeing that the Tampa Bay Derby was his only win on the dirt, King Guillermo will need to prove that he can sit off the pace and make his move late if he stands a chance in here.

He’s trained by Juan Avila who is only 12% off the layoff and 11% when shipping in, but he is 2-for-8 in graded stakes races. At the price, I’ll be looking elsewhere.

No. 1 Finnick the Fierce (15-1)

After breaking his maiden in his debut, Finnick the Fierce wrapped up his 2-year-old season with a huge effort in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club, finishing second behind Silver Prospector at odds of 88-1.

He started off his 3-year-old season in the G3 Lecomte, finishing a distant fourth and then came back to run seventh in the weaker of the two divisions of the G2 Risen Star. In his most recent start, he faced optional claiming company right here at Oaklawn.

He crossed the wire in second, but was moved up to first after Winning Impression was disqualified. He will need to work out a trip with his post position and need to improve his speed figures if he’s to stand a chance in here.

It’s also important to note his effort in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club and last out were both over sloppy tracks; that doesn’t appear to be the case today.

Too many factors working against him so I won’t be using him.

No. 9 Taishan (15-1)

Trainer Richard Baltas sends out this son of Twirling Candy. After breaking his maiden he stepped up to face graded stakes company, losing both by 10 lengths. He came in fourth at Santa Anita in the G3 Sham and then fifth at Oaklawn in the G3 Southwest. He then returned to the winner’s circle at Oaklawn against optional claiming company over a sloppy track.

In his most recent stake, the Oaklawn Stakes, he finished third after sitting a stalking trip and taking over in the stretch only to be mowed down by Mr. Big News and Farmington Road.

He’s another one that I’m not sure he will be able to stay close enough to the pace to have a chance in the end. He’s another that I won’t be using.

No. 6 Code Runner (50-1)

It took Code Runner five tries before breaking his maiden at Remington Park and he didn’t cross the wire in front, he was put up due to a disqualification.

Since then, he finished last in a non-graded stakes race at Sunland Park, third against optional claiming company at Sam Houston and won last time out at Sam Houston against allowance horses.

This seems to be just too big of a step up for him, so I’ll be tossing him.

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