Oaklawn Park will offer three stakes on Saturday’s $1 million Arkansas Derby undercard.
The $750,000 Oaklawn H. (G2) is the biggest and features the Grade 1-winning Midnight Storm, who has distinguished himself on both turf and dirt for trainer Phil d’Amato. The son of Pioneerofthe Nile recorded wins in last year’s Shoemaker Mile (G1), Eddie Read (G2) and Del Mar Mile (G2) before posting a commendable third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) at Santa Anita.
Midnight Storm switched back to dirt for his 2016 finale, romping by 7 ¾ lengths in the Native Diver (G3) in late November, and opened 2017 with an easy tally in the San Pasqaul (G2) before most recently recording a runner-up to Shaman Ghost in the Santa Anita H. (G1).
Mike Smith will be up on the classy 6-year-old.
Six other rivals are entered for the 1 1/8-mile event including multiple Grade 3 scorer Texas Chrome, who makes his first appearance since an unplaced effort in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1); multiple Grade 2 winner Madefromlucky, who returns to Hot Springs for Todd Pletcher after posting a third in the March 18 Essex; and Essex runner-up Domain’s Rap.
Whitmore has established himself as a horse to watch in the sprint ranks, stretching his win streak to three with a six-length tally in the March 11 Hot Springs, and the chestnut heads a cast of nine in the $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3) at 6-furlongs.
The 4-year-old gelding has posted 104 and 102 BRIS Speed ratings in a pair of Oaklawn appearances this year and Ricardo Santana Jr. will retain the mount for conditioner Ron Moquett.
Moe Candy, who had a three-race win skein snapped when second in the February 4 Palos Verdes (G2) at Santa Anita, invades for John Sadler and Grade 2 winner Holy Boss is also entered.
The $100,000 Northern Spur for 3-year-olds takes place at 1 1/16 miles and the seven-horse field attracted a pair of runners exiting the Sunland Derby (G3), which produced next-out Blue Grass (G2) winner Irap.
Total Tap finished fifth to winning stablemate Hence at the New Mexico track and will try to turn things around for Steve Asmussen. Balandeen never fired in a seventh-place effort, but the Chris Hartman trainee opened the year with a third in the Gazebo and is eligible to run better with Saturday’s class relief.