THE Arkansas Derby is one of the key trials for the Kentucky Derby.
But with the first leg of the US Triple Crown delayed until September, the Oaklawn feature takes on a unique look this year, with two divisions of nine runners each. Our man Jack Keene takes a closer look.
11.29pm Arkansas Derby (Div 1)
All eyes will be on the unbeaten CHARLATAN, who looks the latest in a long line of top-drawer three-year-old colts for Bob Baffert.
He was a dominant winner of a 1m allowance contest at Santa Anita last time out, impressively kicking clear inside the final furlong having set a strong pace.
This slightly longer trip will suit and provided he doesn't get swamped from runners drawn wide, he will be very tough to peg back from his inside gate.
He will take the world of beating but is priced accordingly. Gouveneur Morris brings proven Grade 1 form to the table having finished fourth in the Florida Derby last time.
He is no mug and should give the favourite something to think about. But the betting play here could be ANNEAU D'OR each-way.
He was a close second at the Breeders' Cup last term and badly needed the run on his reappearance, while the blinkers he wore first time out have been removed.
Betting angle: Charlatan to win, Anneau D'Or each-way
12.43am Arkansas Derby (Div 2)
The second division looks more competitive, for all Bob Baffert again has a hotpot in the form of Nadal.
He has done nothing wrong in three starts, making it 3-3 with a gutsy success on the slop in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn last time.
It may have been the rain-affected track, or the fact he went pretty hard early, but he looked to be running on fumes close home and was helped by the runner-up hanging their chance away.
He is the one to beat but is worth taking a shot at with KING GUILLERMO, who was a ready winner of a Grade 2 at Tampa Bay on his last start, a performance which arguably sets the standard.
He has reportedly been working the house down in the lead-up to this contest and he is on a sharp upward curve. He could have too much early pace for Nadal, who looks more of a grinder, and he is fancied to lead from gate-to-wire.
Louisiana Derby hero Wells Bayou is another live contender, though his outside berth makes life tricky.
Betting angle: King Guillermo to win
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