So Nice They Ran it Twice: Arkansas Derbies and Oaklawn Handicap Preview by Chase Sessoms @ofoaklawn

For the second year in a row, seriously unfortunate and terrible circumstances have led to a Kentucky Derby prep day at Oaklawn Park to be filled to the brim with excellent racing. As It turns out, last year’s split Rebel Stakes was just a dry run for this year’s split Arkansas Derby.

What I’ve felt is hands down the best prep race for the Kentucky Derby ever (I’m extremely biased) is being run twice this year, sandwiching the full 14 horse field Oaklawn Handicap. This year is strange and different with the change in date to the vacant Kentucky Derby first Saturday in May. However, there is a little bit of familiarity here. Bob Baffert (That Silver Haired Fuck, TSHF) has two imposing entries, Todd Pletcher is back with Farmington Road, and one of these races looks like a competitive on paper. 

Who knows? Maybe this race day is so impressive it replaces the Kentucky Derby as the first jewel of the Triple Crown. 

I mean…..probably not……but fuck you. I’m allowed to dream. 


This race starts and ends with another horse that looks more Greek Demigod than a race horse brought to you by TSHF, Bob Baffert. #1 Charlatan (1/1 ML) looks every bit a Kentucky Derby winner with his build alone. This lightly raced colt steps into the deep end for the first time facing his first graded stakes (or any stakes) competition. His pedigree leaves some question marks as to his ability to handle the distance, but the very early scratches of Shooters Shoot and Wrecking crew should leave Charlatan alone on the lead. Likely not to find very much value here unless you key on top in verticals and single in horizontals.

Winner: #1 Charlatan

Bets: Win – Trifecta 1/4,8,11/4,8,11


There are a lot of names entered in this race that make it on paper a very appealing race. Sadly, I think that it might be much more cut and dry than the imagination allowed it to be. Like Round 1 of the Arkansas Derby this might be a race with a horse loose on the lead with little to no pace pressure. However, like the movie Inception, this race has some complex layers. 

#4 Mr. Freeze (6-1 ML), who finished a distant second to Mucho Gusto in the Pegasus then backed that up with a win in the GP Mile, projects to be the lone early pace presence. The main knock that makes me feel like you could look elsewhere in this field is the ability to handle this distance. The lone win at 1 & 1/8 miles is the West Virginia Derby last year against a subpar field. This field is not subpar. 

#7 Combatant (4-1 ML) is dead to me. There was a time that he was very much alive to me, but then I got sick and tired of all of his bullshit excuses. So Combatant and I broke up. Then he came back and won The Big Cap at Santa Anita with his new squeeze John Sadler and I received more text messages about him winning than I did about the birth of both of my daughters. Combined. You always hate to see good things happen to your exes. Combatant can’t be discounted with the job that Hronis and Sadler do with these types of horses. If Mr. Freeze is indeed distance limited it’s going to be a closer that picks up the pieces. It probably will happen because the universe hates me. 


#2 Trophy Chaser (12-1 ML) has been running lights out in his last two races at the Florida tracks. He also would be a candidate if Mr. Freeze thaws out before the wire. The bullet workout on April 22nd is encouraging and Samy Camacho has been riding well at Tampa lately. The question is will the Tampa Bay form hold after shipping. The last two races were his only time winning back to back, so maybe winning a third consecutive is a stretch. Though, it is worth noting that he’s always fired well off of the layoff previously. 

#12 By My Standards (12-1 ML) will have to prove that he can run outside of Louisiana. All of his career victories have come over the agonizingly long stretch at The Fairgrounds. It’s an intriguing pick, but By My Standards just might be a horse for course. 

Winner: #2 Trophy Chaser

Bets: WPS #2 – Exacta 2,4/2,7,4,12 – Trifecta 2,4/2,4,7/2,4,7,11,12


This looks to be the most competitive of the Arkansas Derbyseses. Many people are going to go the easy route and single #5 Nadal (5-2 ML), the other big name entry today for TSHF, and rightfully so given Nadal’s strong performance in the slop in the Rebel Stakes on March 14th.  However I think there’s an opportunity to maybe go out on a limb and try to beat John Q. Bettingpublic who will undoubtedly be putting a lot of money through Nadal.

#5 Nadal (5-2 ML) will win this race if no one pressures him. He showed that in the Rebel, handling the 1 1/16th miles with ease and running the rest of the field off of its feet with no pace pressure. I don’t think he gets that luxury here due to a few other entries that will want to be on the lead as well. 

#3 Storm the Court (6-1 ML) is one of the horses that will be keen on getting out on or near the lead and adding a little bit of anxiety to Nadal’s trip. I expect Storm the Court to pressure to maybe the second call and then drop off. He might not win, but he may soften up Nadal for the others. 

#4 King Guillermo (3-1 ML) looks like a legitimate contender to the early pace presence of Nadal. He turned a lot of heads with his Tampa Bay Derby win and strikes me as a horse that will take some money. What I’m most impressed with was his ability to rate and win at Today’s distance in the TB derby. 

#11 Wells Bayou (7-2 ML) ran the rest of the Louisiana Derby field into the ground last out and is shipping back to Oaklawn where he finished a close second to Silver Prospector in the Southwest Stakes. He seems to be maturing well and very well might be the wise guy horse in this race.

#7 Silver Prospector (10-1 ML) is the horse I want on my ticket should the four horses I mentioned get wrapped up in a 4 way speed duel to the 1st call and it lasts all the way to the second call. Someone would need to pick up the pieces and Silver Prospector could easily play that part. 

In the end, I’m going to use a horse that has a high cruising speed, which is typical of the last few Kentucky Derby winners.

WINNER: #11 Wells Bayou

Bets: WP 11 – Exacta 7,11/4,5,7,11

RACE 11-13 PICK 3: 1/2,4,7,12/4,5,11

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