Arkansas Derby: Kingmaker | Arkansas Blog

Arkansas Derby: Kingmaker

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SI.com columnist Tim Layden today touts the Arkansas Derby as the kingmaker race:

In each of the last two years, the path to the Kentucky Derby has gone straight through Hot Springs, boyhood home of Bill Clinton (signs around town trumpet this fact). Two years ago Smarty Jones swept the Southwest and Rebel Stakes and the Arkansas Derby before winning the Kentucky Derby and the $5 million bonus for the sweep put up by Oaklawn owner C.J. Cella. ...

Two years. Two horses using Oaklawn Park as the springboard to dominance of the Triple Crown. We might have a pattern here. ...

Why the path through Arkansas?

Two years ago Cella tricked up the deal with his $5 million bonus. That bonus is no longer offered, but it was a one-shot stroke of marketing brilliance, and Cella was given an Eclipse Award for it. Both Servis and Afleet Alex's trainer, Tim Ritchey, flat-out liked Oaklawn Park.

On a larger scale, the $1 million Arkansas Derby is one of only three Derby preps with a seven-figure purse. The others have flaws. ...

All we know for today is that very recent history dictates that if you want to run well in the Kentucky Derby, Oaklawn Park is a good place to be three weekends beforehand.


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