A full field of twelve three-year-olds carrying the Triple Crown hopes of their connections could be in the starting gate on Saturday for the 67th running of the $500,000 Arkansas Derby (gr. II).
The 1 1/8-mile contest is the traditional closing day feature at Oaklawn Park. This year's Arkansas Derby will be telecast on the NBC Network as part of a show also focusing on the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland. The Arkansas Derby is the final leg of the national Big Three Pick Three wager, which includes the Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct, the Blue Grass and the Arkansas.
Invaders from both coasts will be taking on a number of locally-based runners with their eyes set on competition in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) on May 3.
Rebel Stakes winner Crowned King heads the local contingent. The surprise Rebel winner will again have Chandra Rennie in the saddle. No female rider has ever won an Arkansas Derby,
Heading the invading runners will be the winner and runner-up in the recent Tampa Bay Derby.
Region of Merit, the Tampa Bay winner, races in the distinctive colors of Calumet Farm and has won four in a row following a loss in his racing debut last October at Belmont Park. Eibar Coa, who has ridden the son of Touch Gold to his last three scores, has the riding assignment once again from trainer Christophe Clement
Aristocat, second in the Tampa Bay Derby, has two wins and two seconds in four career starts, but both losses were to Region of Merit. Trainer Todd Pletcher, who won back-to-back Arkansas Derbies in 2000-2001 with Graeme Hall and Balto Star, has tabbed Rene Douglas to handle the riding chores on the late-running Aristocat.
From the West Coast, trainer Gary Mandella has sent Man Among Men hoping his charge can regain the stature he had as a major Triple Crown prospect. The son of Gentlemen owns a victory over heavy Wood favorite Empire Maker in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita in February. But he ran poorly in the ensuing San Felipe. Alex Solis, who piloted Victory Gallop to his 1998 Arkansas Derby win, will ride him.
Other prospects for the Arkansas Derby include Cat Genius, Christine's Outlaw, Comic Truth, Defrere's Vixen, Eugene's Third Son, Saint Liam, Sell To Survive and Sir Cherokee.Conditions for the Arkansas Derby (gr. II),
Saturday, April 12th, 2003. 1 1/8 Mile Dirt. Purse $500,000. THREE-YEAR-OLDS. Weights: Colts and Geldings 122 lbs. Fillies 117 lbs. Non-winners of a sweepstakes allowed 4 lbs. Entries at a fee of $25,000 which qualifies to start, with $500,000 guaranteed of which $300,000 to owner of the winner, $100,000 to second, $50,000 to third, $30,000 to fourth and $20,000 to fifth. Weights: Colts and Geldings 122 lbs. Fillies 117 lbs. Non-winners of a sweepstakes allowed 4 lbs.; In Allowance Stakes starting preference will be given to horses that have accumulated the highest earnings, excluding money won in restricted races. Starters to be named through the entry box by the usual time ofclosing. The owner of the winner to receive a trophy. Nominations closed Thursday, March 20, 2003 with 48 nominees.
Entrants, from the rail out, with jockey and assigned weight:
1--Sell To Survive, Carlos Marquez Jr., 118
2--Crowned King, Chandra Rennie, 122
3--Defrere's Vixen, Donnie Meche, 118
4--Christine's Outlaw, Mark Guidry, 118
5--Sir Cherokee, Terry Thompson, 118
6--Cat Genius, Calvin Borel, 122
7--Region Of Merit, Eibar Coa, 122
8--Comic Truth, Jamie Theriot, 122
9--Aristocat, Rene Douglas, 118
10--Man Among Men, Alex Solis, 122
11--Saint Liam, Jon Court, 118
12--Eugene's Third Son, Shane Sellers, 118