Windward Passage, winning the Rebel Stakes.

Windward Passage, winning the Rebel Stakes.

Asmussen Pair Head Wide-Open Arkansas Derby

It's pretty much pick 'em in Saturday's $500,000 Arkansas Derby, with five of the 11 horses entered ranging in odds from 7-2 to 6-1 on the morning line.

Trainer Steve Asmussen holds a strong hand with Windward Passage, winner of the Rebel Stakes, and Private Emblem, winner of a division of the Southwest Stakes. Of the two, Windaward Passage looks more to be Asmussen's Kentucky Derby hope, as his pedigree and overall appearance seems more geared toward 1 1/4 miles. Chris McCarron, who captured last Saturday's Santa Anita Derby on Came Home, has the mount on Windward Passage, while Donnie Meche will be aboard Private Emblem, who drew the outside post position. The track oddsmaker has Private Emblem as the 7-2 favorite, with Windward Passage, who breaks from post 8, co-second choice at 4-1.

Also at 4-1 is the promising Mr. Mellon, impressive winner of the Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park. Trained by Elliott Walden, the son of Red Ransom has won his last two and looks to be improving rapidly. With Pat Day opting to ride Buddha in the Wood Memorial, Larry Melancon gets the mount. The second-place finisher in the Rushaway, Wild Horses, from the connections of last year's Kentucky Derby runner-up Invisible Ink, is listed at 10-1, with Rene Douglas aboard.

Breaking from the rail is California invader Holdthehelm, with Pat Valenzuela up. The son of Helmsman missed the Lane's End Spiral Stakes due to a quarter crack, but he has a good deal of experience, sprinting and at two turns, on dirt and grass, and could be a horse to keep an eye on. In his last start, the 6 1/2-furlong Baldwin Stakes on the turf, he came from 12 lengths back at the head of the stretch to be beaten three-quarters of a length. The race before, he easily defeated a classy allowance field going 1 1/16 miles on the dirt. He is listed at 6-1 on the morning line.

Another horse listed at 6-1 is It'sallinthechase, who also has been around the block a few times, having had 13 career starts. In his last start, he finished a solid third in the Louisiana Derby. Regular rider Gerard Melancon has the mount.

D. Wayne Lukas, who missed the Derby for the first time in 20 years last year, is down to one horse to prevent it from happening again. Lukas will saddle 12-1 shot Gold Dollar, a son of Seattle Slew who is coming off a well-beaten fourth in the Spiral Stakes. Jose Santos will be the colt's 10th different rider in 13 starts.

Rounding out the field are Dusty Spike, who has run big races from off the pace in both the Southwest and Rebel Stakes; Maryland shipper Outstander; Guppie's Secret, trained by Lynn Whiting; and Bay Monster

Post time will be 5:45 CST, and the race will be the final leg in the Big 3 Pick 3 wager, along with the Wood Memorial and Blue Grass Stakes.