2023 Arkansas Derby Odds & Betting Pick

Bettors face a thorny problem in the G1 2023 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on Saturday, with a handful of talented and well-matched rivals chasing their first G1 score and the 100 RTKD points on offer to the winner. G2 Rebel two-three Red Route One and Reincarnate meet again, with G2 Fountain of Youth runner-up Rocket Can and G2 Risen Star winner Angel Of Empire also pitching hard for the victory that will take them to the Kentucky Derby in May.


Arkansas Derby

G1, $1,250,000, 1m 1f dirt, 3yo, 6.50pm CT

A deep, solid field of Kentucky Derby wannabes come together for the 2023 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on Saturday, looking for validation of previous promising form and the lion’s share of the Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying points on offer, shared on a 100-40-30-20-10 sliding scale that could put two horses into the gate at Churchill Downs in May.

Unlike the situation in the Florida Derby the same afternoon there is no standout contender, but instead there is a quartet of rising stars clustered at the top of the morning-line, and that’s where to start the search. More specifically, the race features a rematch between the second and third from the G2 Rebel Stakes here over a mile-sixteenth in February, when Red Route One (3-1) was a length and a half ahead of Reincarnate (5-2)after both had experienced difficult trips on a sloppy track.

Red Route One was so far behind down the back-side it seemed like he was waiting for the runners in the next race, he was a country mile off the speed, but he came with a mighty in-and-out charge down the stretch and could easily be considered an unlucky loser. That goes too for Reincarnate, upset winner of the G3 Sham at Santa Anita on his previous start, who lost track position before halfway and was then bumped when delivering his effort – although he rallied gamely, his chance went with that interference.

Would Reincarnate have finished ahead of Red Route One with a good trip? Possible, but unlikely. Red Route One was already upsides Reincarnate when the bumping happened – lay the blame on longshot Bourbon Bash (15-1), who was beaten a total of six lengths into fifth – and firmly in overdrive.

That was Reincarnate’s first start for Tim Yakteen after switching from Bob Baffert and a complete departure from his earlier speed-favouring performances in California. A faster track will suit him, and if he can take up a stalking position it could be a major positive for his chances.

Red Route One is zero-for-five in Graded stakes since winning his maiden, but he’s likeably consistent and has two things in his corner here – the extra yardage and a set of blinkers, which may concentrate his mind on staying closer to the pace. His trainer Steve Asmussen has won this race four times.

The locally-owned Rocket Can (4-1) surprisingly visits Oaklawn for the first time after two strong efforts at Gulfstream Park, firstly in the G3 Holy Bull over a mile-sixteenth, when he beat a moderate bunch in some comfort. Last time he had no chance with the rampaging Forte in the mile-sixteenth G2 Fountain of Youth, but he was clear second-best after pressing the pace throughout and there’s no better form out there than Forte form.

This is practically class relief after that, despite the G1 upgrade, and it might be significant that Rocket Can’s owner is from Arkansas and possibly wants to win this race even more than the big one in Kentucky. Every bettor has encountered circumstances where the headlines seem to write themselves.

Twelve months ago Brad Cox won with Cyberknife and has another major player in Angel Of Empire (9-2), the only horse in the field with a win at a mile-eighth, a distinction he earned in the G2 Risen Star at the Fair Grounds when springing a mild upset. He arrived late off a blistering pace and was well on top at the wire, with recent G3 prep winner Two Phil’s only third and Red Route One’s barnmate Harlocap (15-1)sixth on his stakes debut, beaten nine and a quarter lengths.

If there’s plenty of speed it’ll be a positive, but the feeling persists that he was the beneficiary of a minor pace meltdown on that occasion and he’ll need to improve again in this company.

Local boys in left field

Away from the established Graded-stakes horses, there has been interest in two progressive types who have already got the job done at Oaklawn and whose winning form was highlighted by the result of last weekend’s G2 Louisiana Derby.

This is the first time stretching out beyond a mile for Two Eagles River (10-1), who was runner-up in a sprint stakes here – beating Bourbon Bash – on New Year’s Eve before capturing the imagination in an allowance over a mile in February, when he broke on top and never looked back, clearing away to win by four lengths from Disarm, who boosted the form when runner-up to Kingsbarns in New Orleans last weekend.

If Two Eagles River can carry his speed an extra furlong he could be in the mix at the business end, as could Airtime (15-1), who makes his stakes debut today. He posted a very encouraging effort in allowance grade over a mile-sixteenth, getting a dream run up the fence to win by a length and a quarter from Shopper’s Revenge, who was fourth behind Kingsbarns, four and three-quarter lengths shy of Disarm.

That collateral form gives Two Eagles River the upper hand in this match-up, although it’s important to note that both horses have been strutting all their stuff on Lasix, and are off the meds today.

This is a huge class hike for course winner Interlock Empire (20-1), who shed his maiden tag at the fourth attempt when romping by five lengths over a mile, which also applies to fellow Oaklawn maiden winner (fifth time of asking) King Russell (30-1), who was less impressive over a mile-sixteenth when scrambling home by a neck. Along with turf runner Kolomio (30-1), making his debut for Keith Desormeaux, they are likely to be outclassed.

2023 Arkansas Derby Odds & Betting Pick

HorseJockeyOdds by Jazzsports
Bourbon BashReylu Gutierrez+1500
Interlock EmpireDavid Cabrera+2000
HarlocapRicardo Santana, Jr.+1500
Two Eagles RiverNik Juarez+1000
AirtimeCristian A. Torres+1500
Angel of EmpireFlavien Prat+450
Rocket CanJunior Alvarado+400
ReincarnateJohn R. Velazquez+250
King RussellRafael Bejarano+3000
Red Route OneTyler Gaffalione+300
KolomioJames Graham+3000

The addition of blinkers could be the key to RED ROUTE ONE, who has been getting behind early in his races before finishing strongly, and if the headgear keeps him in touch his trademark late rush can pay dividends.

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