January 31, 2023

Arkansas Derby divisions 1 & 2 OptixEQ Analysis

Wrecking Crew
Wrecking Crew (Horsephotos.com/Rickell Nelson)

Oaklawn Park Saturday OptixEQ Analysis and graphs present both divisions of the Arkansas Derby and a bonus in the Okalawn Handicap!

HANSON: Charlatan looms as heavy favorite in first Arkansas Derby division

HANSON: Nadal, Wells Bayou provide plenty of speed in second Arkansas Derby division


#1 CHARLATAN without much surprise and creativity listed as even money on the morning line he will contest the first edition of the G1 Arkansas Derby and clearly the horse to beat. As the favorite he “checks all the boxes” with the pace advantage as the lone “E” runner and positioned strongly in Quad I as a Square, and the only Square in that Quadrant. In terms of OptixFIG he has run only twice and earned OptixFIGs in both starts on the higher end (OptixFIGRANGE) of today’s race par. In terms of class this will be his first start in graded stakes, though has earned the rare A OptixGRADE on debut and backed that up with a B+ OptixGRADE in his allowance run last out suggesting he can handle the step up in class.

#6 SHOOTERS SHOOT currently is the only other runner in the field that seems capable to run with CHARLATAN early however as a Circle does not have the same closing ability. He does have the edge in terms of recency and earned a solid B+ OptixGRADE and 99 OptixFIG for his recent allowance win with those efforts making him a fit in this event. The same cannot be said for the other Quad I Circle #7 WRECKING CREW as a larger Circle behind that pair showing his unable to run with his two rivals to the first call and lacks finish.

#8 ANNEAU D’OR and #11 BASIN positioned similarly in that Quad I stalking spot and high up on the y-axis – this shows their speed and class to run and keep pace on the two pacesetters CHARLATAN and SHOOTERS SHOOT. While both runners have ability and worth a spot in this race, they need to show more than their most recent starts (B-/C OptixGRADES) and tough to have a lot of confidence on that front in the face of the heavy favorite. They are capable to find favorable trips which has its advantages in terms of competing for a share.

#4 GOUVERNEUR MORRIS tracking as a Square in Quad II is well positioned and will look to take advantage on the “FireContention and with first run on the Quad IV runners. He has the ability to outkick those Quad I Circles late as well as run OptixFIG in RANGE and has proven himself competitive in graded stakes with the B- OptixGRADES for each appearance. He comes into this race in good form and off a decent run in the G1 Florida Derby making up ground late in a race where the top three finishers ran forwardly placed throughout and capable to upgraded based on that race dynamic.

The SpeedRate, and race dynamics present a challenge for the Quad IV runners. With that said, it is still worth keeping in mind that many of those runners are still lightly raced and true running style is still being established. #10 CRYPTO CASH being one that fits that description; however he comes into this race very light on OptixFIG and would need major improvement this afternoon from his previous races and juvenile efforts. OptixFIG also very light on #5 JUNGLE RUNNER and shown accordingly as a Circle in Quad IV. There could be some upside with #3 MO MOSA also a Quad IV Circle coming out of the allowance race back on April 11th when he closed ground behind the top two pacesetters and over a track that was tough to close ground on. Both #2 MY FRIENDS BEER and #10 WINNING IMPRESSION come into this race with solid form over the track this season though are also light when it comes to OptixFIGs as well as class; and even though there is not much in their races to “knock” the ability to compete at the graded stakes level is questionable.

Arkansas Derby Div. I Optix Plot


#12 BY MY STANDARDS his solid 2019 season gave him a strong look in last year’s Kentucky Derby, however that rough trip and without any chance to compete he spent the rest of the season on the bench. He has come back in very sharp form this year and a true credit to his class as that is not always the case for runners of the Triple Crown trail. He made his return back in February at the Fair Grounds and dominated (A OptixGRADE) an allowance field while pairing up that effort against graded stakes types the following month to win the G2 New Orleans Handicap in strong B+ OptixGRADE effort. Those races make him a solid contender this afternoon in terms of form with class (OptixGRADES) and speed (OptixFIG) to support. His class also allows him to run with versatility in terms of RunStyle as more a “presser” type especially looking at Surface/Distance where he lands as a solid Square tracking in Quad III (almost Quad I) position.

Okalawn Handicap 2020 Optix Graph


Unlike his stablemate CHARLATAN in the first G1 Arkansas Derby division, morning line favorite #5 NADAL looks to have a much more “Contentious” battle with added presence of more E/EP type runners in the field and unlike that “Square” stablemate will have to fend off that clash as a Circle from Quad I. To NADAL’s credit he has proven himself capable to take pressure and still win as he has shown in each start as the BOS/Best of the Speed according to OptixNOTES. He has earned three straight OptixFIG in RANGE for those starts including his most recent start here at Oaklawn Park. In that March 14th race he was making his first start around two turns and with the assertive handling from the rail was able to dig into pressure holding position for the win as the long shot place finisher came closing late. While a game win (B+ OptixGRADE) it should be noted the track profile that afternoon favored horses running in the inside paths, the lanes both the top two finishers took advantage of.  Pace will be the biggest hurdle for NADAL once again and in perhaps the more competitive G1 Arkansas Derby division he has that knock as the favorite.

It seems the most “pressing” challenge to NADAL will come from #3 STORM THE COURT positioned in a similar Quad I spot shown on OptixPLOT2020. While STORM THE COURT does not present as a true “need the lead” type he has had the most success when in that role as the case was when things fell in his favor winning the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall. Since that race he has been working his way into condition and will make his third start of the season this afternoon. Freshened for this race by trainer Peter Eurton, who has been sending live runners to Oaklawn Park this meet, he looks well-intended by the connections on that front. Overall there is still much for him to prove and would need that improvement from his two graded stakes races (C+/B- OptixGRADES) this year.

#4 KING GUILLERMO and #11 WELLS BAYOU listed as the second and third choice on the morning line are also part of that Quad IFireContention along with NADAL and STORM THE COURT. #4 KING GUILLERMO will ship in following a strong (B+ OptixGRADE) effort pulling off the upset to win the G2 Tampa Bay Derby back in March, a race that has not been overly productive to this point. KING GUILLERMO expects to be a much shorter price this afternoon and does face the contentious pace scenario along with deeper competition – things to certainly factor in terms of value. #11 WELLS BAYOU was able to make an EASY_LEAD and LONE trip to win the G2 Louisiana Derby last out an unlikely to find a similar trip this afternoon. In addition, he will have to make the lead from the far outside post something he has yet to do this season. While his recent efforts (OptixGRADE/FIG) fit this afternoon he finds a different race dynamic here and will have to overcome. Lighter in terms of racing and speed figures

#2 SARATOGIAN looks to play the role of a menace drawn inside and coming out of his two recent starts will project to show early speed from that post. While tough to see him as a contender, his presence can make things difficult for others. #9 TAISHAN also positioned in Quad I, however, is more versatile in terms of running style. He is capable of finding a favorable tracking trip and one similar to his most recent run in the Oaklawn Stakes last month. In that race he stalked outside (WIDE) the pacesetters chasing a solid early pace for the distance. In addition to ground loss, the move into contention might have been a bit premature and contributed to his overall finish. Off that effort and his races to date he would his “best” to win this afternoon though very capable to hit the board.

With the pace scenario outlined above, trip could be right there for the taking with the Quad II runners #7 SILVER PROSPECTOR and #10 FARMINGTON ROAD and according to QuadSTAT Quad II runners especially Squares perform well here at Oaklawn at the distance. #10 FARMINGTON ROAD is a legit contender coming out of the Oaklawn Stakes earning a BOptixGRADE (same Grade as the winner) and noted BTL/Better Than Looked effort. He was shuffled back in the early stages of that race and worth mentioning as he is capable to race closer to the pace (shown here in Quad II) and not quite the “deep closer” as it could appear on paper. He has steadily improved with each race (improving OptixFIG) and looks well enough coming back in three weeks holding his form for Todd Pletcher. #7 SILVER PROSPECTOR has upside off his disappointing run in the G2 Rebel Stakes back in March. Visually he did not look to be fully recovered from his sneaky good effort in the Smarty Jones and win in the G3 Southwest Stakes. He will come into this race rested here by Asmussen, which looks to be in his favor. With that said today’s distance is a bit of a question mark based on his visuals when drifting out (NO_LINE) and flashing his tail late in that G3 Southwest win.

Rounding out the field from Quad IV, #1 FINNICK THE FIERCE and #6 CODE RUNNER. Both horses come into this race in good form however light in terms of class and speed figures (OptixFIG) making them below par in this graded stakes event. FINNICK THE FIERCE was promoted via DQ of the winner in his most recent start, and CODE RUNNER ran well in his recent win over at Sam Houston however was aided by the race flow.

Arkansas Derby div. II OptixEQ Chart 2020