Last of 12 after the opening half-mile, 55-1 shot Sir Cherokee charged home with a powerful kick in the stretch to win the $500,000 Arkansas Derby (gr. II) over Eugene's Third Son at Oaklawn Park Saturday.
A crowd of 61,752 saw the biggest upset at the Arkansas Derby since Rockamundo won with odds of 108-1.
Ridden by local Oaklawn jockey Terry Thompson, Sir Cherokee took advantage of a lightening early pace to range into contention while circling the field with an extremely wide move on the turn for home. He won by 1 3/4 lengths. The final time for the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas was 1:48 1/5, the fastest of three Kentucky Derby prep races run Saturday.
Eugene's Third Son, ridden by Shane Sellers, took the lead out of the gate and then forced the issue on pace-setting Cat Genius through fractions of :21 4/5, :45 2/5, and 1:09 4/5.
As they hit the stretch, Eugene's Third Son took the lead and soon opened up a three-length advantage. But he was getting weary and could offer little resistance as Sir Cherokee swept by.
Eugene's Third Son, who was also second to New York Hero in his last start, the Lane's End (gr. II) was 6 1/2 lengths in front of third-place finisher Christine's Outlaw. Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) winner Region of Merit was edged for fthe show spot by a length.
``People will look at the those fractions and think we were going too fast, but he was doing it well within himself,'' Sellers said.
The surprising victory by the son of Cherokee Run lit the tote board for an across-the-board payoff of $113.20, $33.60 and $13.20. Eugene's Third Son returned $8 and $5.20. Christine's Outlaw showed for $9.80. The $2 exacta was worth $1,054. A $2 superfecta returned a whopping $101,107.20. A $1 Big 3 Pick 3 with heavy favorites Empire Maker ($3.10) in the Wood and Peace Rules ($3.20) in the Blue Grass paid $182.50.
The victory was worth $300,000 to Kentucky owner and breeder Domino Stud of Lexington, Inc. Trained by Michael Tomlinson, Sir Cherokee, the third-longest shot in the Arkansas Derby field, was produced by the Irish broodmare La Cucina, by Last Tycoon.
``This horse has beat himself on several occasions,'' trainer Mike Tomlinson told The Associated Press. ``He won his maiden and then got taken down. He's really coming around at the right time.''
Sir Cherokee had finished a well-beaten fourth in both of the Oaklawn preps for the Arkansas, the Southwest on March 1 and the Rebel on March 22. Thompson was aboard for the first time on Saturday, which was Sir Cherokee's first stakes victory. Overall, he's won three of 10 races with three seconds. He came into the race with lifetime earnings of $93,975.
Man Among Men, the 5-2 favorite, finished 10th after being wide into the first turn and fading in the stretch after moving up. Cat Genius, the 4-1 second choice, finished last.