With a more favorable pace scenario than the one he got in last month's Rebel Stakes (gr. II), trainer Larry Jones is confident his colt Old Fashioned will prove he belongs among the favorites for the May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
The favorite for the $1-million Arkansas Derby (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park April 11 gets an opportunity to prove it following his second-place finish to 56-1 shot Win Willy as the 2-5 choice in the March 14 Rebel. It was the first loss in the five-race career of Old Fashioned, a gray/roan son of Unbridled's Song.
Old Fashioned, who likes to be on the lead, chased a quick pace by Silver City in the Rebel. When he was confronted by the rallying Win Willy in the final furlong, Old Fashioned had little response while finishing a strong second, 2 1/4 lengths behind Win Willy. He was eight lengths clear of the rest of the field at Oaklawn that day.
“I thought anybody that could kind of handicap racing kind of realized the pace probably wasn’t in his favor last time,” Jones said. “The people around here (at Oaklawn), they still realize he ran a good race.”
There are 10 3-year-olds entered in the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby, with Old Fashioned, who breaks from post 8, the 9-5 favorite. Win Willy, trained by Mac Robertson, is the 7-2 second choice and is one slot to the outside of his rival. The likely pace challenger for Old Fashioned is the Southern California-based Papa Clem, who showed the way in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) before giving way to Friesan Fire and finishing a distant second.
Owned by Richard Porter's Fox Hill Farm, Old Fashioned was just about everyone's top pick for the Run for the Roses after his impressive 3 1/4-length triumph in Oaklawn's one-mile Southwest Stakes (gr. III) Feb. 16. Most jumped off the bandwagon, however, following the 1 1/16-mile Rebel. Prior to that race Old Fashioned had won his previous three races by a combined margin of 26 lengths.
"He's moving forward the way we thought he would," Jones said. "We had set up three (prep) races for him and he has moved forward in every one so far."
Jones selected jockey Terry Thompson to replace Ramon Dominguez on Old Fashioned for the Arkansas Derby. Jones has enjoyed considerable success with Thompson at Oaklawn, where Thompson is well in front in his quest for the local jockey crown. Thompson is expected to try and get the talented horse to rate and show more punch for the longer distance of the Arkansas Derby.
Thompson has experience on Old Fashioned, winning on him in the colt's first two starts at Delaware Park last year. Ramon Dominguez had taken over in late November, winning the Remsen (gr. II) and Southwest aboard Old Fashioned before the Rebel.
“There was nothing going against Ramon on this except the fact that Terry’s riding this track every day,” Jones said. “We’ll take a one-race-at-a-time commitment, but I really wanted Terry on him for this race.”
Jer-Mar Stable’s Win Willy, with Cliff Berry aboard, went from last to first to win the Rebel in an impressive display, especially considering it was his first try around two turns and his initial stakes effort. The gray/roan son of Monarchos is undefeated in three starts on dirt.
Mac Robertson, Win Willy’s trainer, offered few specifics about his strategy.
“I won’t tell Berry much,” Robertson said. “I’ll just say, ‘Ride your race. Hope you do well.”’
Win Willy is a late nominee to the Triple Crown races. Robertson sent his charge through a half-mile work April 8 at Oaklawn in :48 in preparation for the race.
Bo Hirsch’s homebred Papa Clem has impressed in training over the Oaklawn oval in the past two weeks. Second by a half-length to Pioneerof the Nile in the Robert B. Lewis (gr. II) at Santa Anita prior to his runner-up effort in the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds, the son of Smart Strike could be tough to catch under jockey Rafael Bejarano.
Trained by Gary Stute, the improving Papa Clem has a maiden win in five starts.
Flying Private, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, is coming off a second-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Lane’s End (gr. II) over the synthetic track at Turfway Park March 21. In his graded stakes debut, the Fusaichi Pegasus colt finished 1 3/4 lengths behind Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) favorite Hold Me Back.
Smarty Jones Stakes winner Flat Out finished fourth in the Southwest, 4 1/2 lengths behind Old Fashioned. Trainer Charles Dickey passed on the Rebel with the son of Flatter , who has won two of four starts for Oxbow Racing.
Danger to Society, trained by Rick Dutrow Jr., is racing for the first time since January 31. The son of Harlan's Holiday won his first two starts impressive before faltering in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park, finishing seventh.
Also in the field is Rebel fourth-place finisher Captain Cherokee and Rushaway runner-up Ziegfeld. Summer Bird, who broke his maiden at second asking in his last start March 19 at Oaklawn, completes the field.
$1-Million Arkansas Derby (gr. II, Race 11, 5:41 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Weight, Jockey, ML Odds
1. Captain Cherokee (KY), 118, Aaron T. Gryder, 20/1
2. Papa Clem (KY), 118, Rafael Bejarano, 6/1
3. Flat Out (FL), 122, Julio A. Garcia, 10/1
4. Poltergeist (TX), 118, Quincy Hamilton, 10/1
5. Ziegfeld (VA), 118, Jon K. Court, 12/1
6. Flying Private (KY), 118, Israel Ocampo, 6/1
7. Summer Bird (KY), 118, Chris R. Rosier, 30/1
8. Old Fashioned (KY), 122, Terry J. Thompson, 9/5
9. Win Willy (KY), 122, M. Clifton Berry, 7/2
10. Danger to Society (KY), 118, Cornelio H. Velasquez, 6/1