The most significant stakes for 3-year-olds in the month of April will be held Saturday at Oaklawn Park, but not the one anyone would have imagined more than a month ago.
After the announcement that the Kentucky Derby (G1) would be postponed to September due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Oaklawn Park announced that the $750,000 Arkansas Derby (G1), originally scheduled for April 11, would be pushed back to the first Saturday in May. Brought forward from its original May 2 slot was the $200,000 Oaklawn S.
Inaugurated last year as the Oaklawn Invitational, the 9-furlong test’s invitational conditions have been dropped for this renewal. Although the race doesn’t carry any Kentucky Derby qualifying points, the race serves as a final prep for the Arkansas Derby and like last year the winner receives an automatic bid for the Preakness (G1) at Pimlico, which has not yet been rescheduled.
Thousand Words, winner of the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) and Robert B. Lewis (G3) for trainer Bob Baffert, will look to rebound off a disappointing fourth in the San Felipe (G2) behind stablemate Authentic. Another that bears watching is Hopeful (G1) winner Basin, a distant third in the Mar. 14 Rebel (G2) off a six-month break who could use this as an additional tightener heading into the Arkansas Derby.
In addition to Basin, Steve Asmussen also relies on Shoplifted, who captured the Springboard Mile in December but was only third to returning stablemate Gold Street in the Smarty Jones S. and fourth in the Southwest (G3). Gold Street, who led wire-to-wire in the Smarty Jones, failed to make the lead in the Southwest and trailed the Southwest field in a highly sub-par effort. However, the colt breaks from post 13 Saturday.
Coach Bahe could show improvement off his fifth in the Rebel, while Mr. Big News, Digital, and Farmington Road look to progress after earning minor checks in divisions of the Risen Star (G2). Other notables include Taishan, a convincing allowance winner in the slop on the Rebel undercard after running fifth in the Southwest, and Arlington-Washington Futurity winner Flap Jack, sixth in the Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct on Mar. 7 following a six-month spell.