Overanalyze , rebounding from a lackluster seasonal debut, overpowered his rivals in the drive to easily win the $1 million Arkansas Derby (gr. I) and stamp his ticket for this year's Run for the Roses (VIDEO).
Before a crowd of 66,158 at Oaklawn Park, jockey Rafael Bejarano brought the son of Dixie Union from well off the pace to score handily by 4 1/4 lengths at 7-2 odds for Repole Stable and trainer Todd Pletcher. The Arkansas Derby, the last major prep for the 2013 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), was worth 100 points to the winner. It guaranteed Overanalyze a starting spot in the 20-horse starting gate May 3.
Frac Daddy garnered 40 points for finishing second and also appears to be headed for Lousville. Unheralded Carve finished third, with pacesetter Falling Sky weakening to fourth in deep stretch. That left the Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) winner with 30 points and 20th on the leader board for the Derby.
Overanalyze was considered a top Derby candidate after a 2-year-old campaign that included wins in the Futurity Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park and the Remsen Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct Racetrack. In his only start since the Nov. 24 Remsen, which he won by a nose over Normandy Invasion, he ran a non-threatening fifth in the Gotham Stakes (gr. II) last month at Aqueduct.
The final time for the Arkansas Derby, a 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-olds, was 1:51.94 on a fast track.
"This is my Derby horse, I'm pretty sure," said Bejarano, who was aboard Overanalyze for the first time as he replaced the injured John Velazaquez. "Thanks to Mr. Pletcher for giving me the opportunity to ride him today."
War Academy, the 9-5 favorite in the field of 10, was backed out of the starting gate when he was unruly before being reloaded. The son of Giant's Causeway , attempting to give trainer Bob Baffert a second straight Arkansas Derby win following Bodemeister last year, never appeared comfortable while chasing the early pace. He was pulled up gradually after a half-mile and walked off the track.
Baffert's second entrant, Den's Legacy, finished sixth.
It was Pletcher who stole the training spotlight with the strapping Overanalyze. The former assistant to trainer D. Wayne Lukas and the 2010 Kentucky Derby winner with Super Saver won his first Arkansas Derby since Graeme Hall and Balto Star won back-to-back renewals in 2000 and 2001. He now appears to have four candidates for this year's Kentucky Derby.
"Todd was going to run Verrazano in the Wood (gr. I), so we decided to split the two horses up and come here," said owner Mike Repole. "I wasn't surprised that he won, but I was shocked at how easy he won. I'm really blessed to have a filly (Unlimited Budget) for the (Kentucky) Oaks (gr. I) and now a colt for the (Kentucky) Derby."
"If I can't win, I'm always rooting for Todd," he said. "He's a great trainer, but he's an even better friend."
The winner was a $380,000 Keeneland September sale yearling in 2011 from the Taylor Made Sales Agency consignment. Overanalyze was bred in Kentucky by Gerald Ford’s Diamond A Racing out of the unraced Unaccounted For mare Unacloud. He is a half bother to Belmont Matron Stakes (gr. II) winner Meadow Breeze, a daughter of Meadowlake.
Overanalyze raced seventh early as Falling Sky, challenged on the inside by 60-1 Divine Ambition, took a narrow advantage while racing off the rail after the opening quarter mile. The two leaders carved moderate splits of :23.32, :47.64, and 1:12.57.
Den's Legacy, getting through between horses as Divine Ambition faded on the final turn, and Frac Daddy on the outside, were the biggest threats as Falling Sky maintained a narow edge in upper stretch. But Overanalyze, still seventh while five wide rounding the bend, was put to a drive by Bejarano. The big colt responded impressively on the grandstand side to overtake the leaders a furlong out. He went on to win easily while drifting in after getting clear under steady handling.
"My horse broke really good. I placed him right behind the early speed because I didn't want to rush him. At the half-mile pole, He started to chase the horses on the lead and he kicked clear," Bejarano said. "I had a beautiful trip. Once we got to the stretch, I felt like I had a lot of horse left and saved something for the next race."
Frac Daddy, ridden by Victor Lebron for trainer Ken McPeek, outlasted the rest of a tired lot to finish second, a half-length better than Carve. Frac Daddy rebounded from two subpar efforts at Gulfstream Park this season, including a distant seventh in the Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) March 30.
The McPeek barn claimed foul against Overanalyze for interference past mid-stretch, but stewards disallowed it.
"The day was excellent," said McPeek. "It makes all of the hard work you put in worth it. I couldn't see what happened that caused the objection, but he (assistant Phil Bauer) had to put it in. But my horse ran great and he punched his ticket to the Derby.
"In the past he's shown a lot of talent and today he put it together. Victor did a very good job riding him. He let him settle and then kept him in the clear."
Carve, meanwhile, showed vast improvement in his fourth start for trainer Steve Asmussen, including a sixth-place showing in Oaklawn's Rebel Stakes (gr. II) March 16.
Falling Sky was followed by Rebel runner-up Oxbow , the 3-1 second choice who lacked much punch in the stretch. Then came Den's Legacy, who faded after making a bold advance, Divine Ambition, Texas Bling, Heaven's Runway, and War Academy.
"(War Academy) was just very uncertain over the surface and I tried to get him to settle," said Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith. "He was OK the first turn, but then he took four or five really awkward steps. I didn't see anything major causing it, but I just felt really awkward on him and figured better safe than sorry, so I pulled him up. I didn't want to take any chances."
Overanalyze posted his fourth win from seven tries and boosted his earnings to $956,381 with the winner's share of $600,000.
The winner carried 122 pounds and paid $9.40, $5.60, and $4.60, keying a $195.40 exacta with Frac Daddy, who returned $16.80 and $11 as a 23-1 shot. Carve, off at 22-1, paid $8.60 to show.