Fox Hill Farm’s Old Fashioned, a near-consensus early favorite for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) a month ago, is the morning line favorite to win a rematch with Win Willy, the horse that knocked him from the role of Derby favorite, when the two meet in Saturday’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (GII) at Oaklawn Park.
The Larry Jones-trained Old Fashioned is the 9-5 morning line choice in a field of 10 horses entered in the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Derby prep. The son of Unbridled’s Song will attempt to avenge the only loss of his career as he takes on Jer-Mar Stable’s Win Willy, the 56-1 upset winner over Old Fashioned in the Rebel Stakes (GIII) at Oaklawn on March 14. The Mac Robertson-trained son of 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos is unbeaten in three races on dirt and is the 7-2 second choice in the Arkansas Derby.
Jockey Cliff Berry was aboard for the Rebel and gets the return call in the Arkansas Derby for Robertson, the 34-year-old son of veteran Chicago-based trainer Hugh Robertson.
Old Fashioned will have a new partner in the saddle as Terry Thompson replaces New York-based Ramon Dominguez in what Jones described as a one-race deal for the Arkansas Derby.
"Terry knows the track," Jones said. "He knows when he needs to be in, when he needs to be out. He kind of knows where the groove is. We're expecting him to find that trip to make it play for us."
Another interesting contender is Bo Hirsh’s Papa Clem, who launched his career on the synthetic tracks in California and comes into the Arkansas Derby off a solid effort in his debut on conventional dirt when he raced over a “sloppy” surface in the Louisiana Derby (GII) at Fair Grounds. Jockey Rafael Bejarano will ride 3-year-old son of Smart Strike.
Others in the field include Lane’s End (GII) runner-up Flying Private, Captain Cherokee, Flat Out, Poltergeist, Ziegfeld, Danger to Society and Summer Bird.
The Arkansas Derby will be telecast live on ESPN from 6-7 p.m. (all times EDT).
KENTUCKY/HOLD ME BACK, UNBEATEN CHARITABLE MAN HEAD TOYOTA BLUE GRASS – Saturday’s $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass (GI) at Keeneland does not have a major marquee name in its field of 11 3-year-olds, but the race is filled with interesting horses that could thrust themselves into the Kentucky Derby picture with big efforts.
The 3-1 morning line favorite is WinStar Farm LLC’s late-developing Hold Me Back, who returned from a long layoff to score an emphatic victory in the Lane’s End Stakes over the Polytrack surface at Turfway Park. The Bill Mott-trained son of Giant’s Causeway drew post 10 for the 85th running of the Blue Grass, which is also run over Polytrack.
“His race in the Lane’s End was extremely impressive,” said Elliott Walden, vice president of WinStar Farm. “That had been our focal point and he ran a super race. Our goal all along was the Lane’s End and the Blue Grass.”
Hold Me Back is unbeaten in three starts over synthetic surfaces and will be ridden again by three-time Kentucky Derby winner Kent Desormeaux.
Close behind at morning line odds of 7-2 is Theregoesjojo, third to Quality Road and Dunkirk in the recent Florida Derby (GI) and the only horse to a hold a win over the former. Kentucky Derby winner Calvin Borel will ride the Ken McPeek trainee from post three.
Mr. and Mrs. William Warren’s Charitable Man is unbeaten in two races, but the most recent of those was a win in the Belmont Futurity (GI) in September. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s colt was sidelined by a saucer fracture in a shin last fall, but has trained well for his return to racing in the Blue Grass. The 4-1 shot will be ridden by Alan Garcia.
While Hold Me Back, Theregoesjojo and Charitable Man are trying to prove that they belong in Kentucky Derby 135, Mafaaz is already guaranteed a spot in the starting gate on May 2 at Churchill Downs. The British-based colt won the first Kentucky Derby Challenge Stakes at Kempton Park in March, which guaranteed his starting spot in the “Run for the Roses."
Richard Hills was aboard Mafaaz at Kempton and will be aboard the colt on Saturday.
Others in the very balanced field in the Toyota Blue Grass include Lecomte (GIII) runner-up Patena; Sam F. Davis (GIII) winner General Quarters; Terrain, third in the Louisiana Derby (GII), Rushaway winner Cliffy’s Future; Tampa Bay Derby (GIII) runner-up Join in the Dance; Loch Dubh; and Massone.
The Toyota Blue Grass will be televised via tape delay during the ESPN telecast of the Arkansas Derby.
I Want Revenge, Godolphin Horses Arrive at Churchill – Wood Memorial (GI) winner I Want Revenge has settled in at Churchill Downs following his arrival at the track early Tuesday morning following a van ride from New York.
Godolphin’s double-barrelled Derby threats Regal Ransom and Desert Party, the 1-2 finishers in the $2 million UAE Derby, arrived at the Louisville track late Thursday afternoon. The two colts were scheduled to spent 24-48 hours in quarantine after their trip from Dubai.
EAST/QUALITY ROAD HAS QUARTER CRACK, BUT INJURY RESPONDING WELL – There was something close to a collective gasp early in the week from admirers of Florida Derby and Fountain of Youth (GII) winner Quality Road when trainer Jimmy Jerkens revealed the colt was being treated for a quarter crack.
That foot ailment plagued 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown and foot specialist Ian McKinlay, who had treated Big Brown, was called in to patch the colt’s injured foot. Quality Road returned to the track for a gallop on Wednesday and Jerkens liked what he saw.
“You always have to be guarded, but the patch went on there good, he galloped great and came back good,” said Jerkens. “These things can be a little tricky, but Ian is really confident about it, which is good.”
Quality Road was scheduled to work on Friday or Saturday, depending on weather.