The 2020 Arkansas Derby on Saturday at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas figures to capture the attention of much of the horse racing world. In fact, the two divisions of the event that will be held might even attract casual sports fans excited to watch and wager on some live sports action during this period when most events have been cancelled. We’re here to get you prepared with this 2020 Arkansas Derby betting preview.
Like the rest of the sports world, thoroughbred horse racing has been all but shut down over the past month or so. A precious few remain open, however, including Oaklawn Park, which is why the Arkansas Derby can take place.
For the sport of horse racing in America, this is usually the biggest time of the year. As a matter of fact, Saturday was originally the scheduled date for the Kentucky Derby, the biggest of all events in the sport. That had to be pushed back to September.
The Arkansas Derby 2020 Goes On
The Arkansas Derby will fill that void somewhat, which is fitting because it is one of the top prep races for the Derby each year. This year, it stands to be one of the only prep races, barring some change that occurs during the summer months.
That explains why the race was so overrun with three-year-old entrants that Oaklawn Park officials decided to set a precedent and split the race into two divisions. Yet each division will still carry the same kind of weight in terms of Derby qualifying points. The winner of each of the two races will get 100 points towards the Kentucky Derby qualifying standings.
That kind of point total is enough to all but ensure entry into the Kentucky Derby, assuming it does go off as planned in September. And, of course, the Derby is springboard to the other Triple Crown races, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, which have also been pushed back to the final quarter of the year.
As for the two races on Saturday, they are full of intriguing horses with the potential to do damage later in the season. But before we even get to that, these races figure to provide a nice opportunity to wager for those who have been craving to do so. The 2020 Arkansas Derby will be like an oasis in the sports betting desert.
With that in mind, we’re here to help you along with this 2020 Arkansas Derby betting preview. We’ll take a quick look at all 11 horses in each of the two races scheduled for Saturday. And we’ll also give you our choices at the end of it all.
2020 Arkansas Derby Details
Where: Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas
When: Saturday, May 2, 2020. Post time for first division at 6:29 PM ET. Post time for second division at 7:43 ET.
Who Is Competing: Three-year-old horses
Distance: 1 1/8 miles
Purse: $500,000 for each division
The Contenders – Division One
#1: Charlatan (Martin Garcia, Bob Baffert) 7-5
Granted this horse has won both of his starts to date in convincing fashion. Yet it seems a stretch to see him as an even-money morning-line favorite when he hasn’t yet run in a graded stakes race. At least until you see the name Bob Baffert listed as the trainer.
Baffert created a similar path to eventual stardom for Justify a few years back, and his track record with horses preparing for big tests is impeccable. Even with the rail, which can be problematic, Charlatan figures to be tough to stop here. Many will be watching to compare him to Nadal, Baffert’s top entry in the second division.
#2: My Friends Beer (Declan Cannon, Jeremiah O’Brien) 15-1
Like many of the horses in this division of the 2020 Arkansas Derby, My Friends Beer is taking a serious step up in competition. He does have familiarity with the Oaklawn dirt, racing here three weeks ago. But that was a third-place finish, and it came against allowance competition.
The first division is definitely the weaker of the two, which opens it up to a long shot or two maybe hitting the board. And My Friends Beer does that pretty well, with in-the-money finishes in three-quarters of his career starts. At best, though, he is a trifecta or superfecta dart throw.
#3: Mo Mosa (Kenrick Carmouche, Mike Maker) 30-1
At the very least, this colt has faced some Derby Prep competition, having raced in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby in March. His 12th-place finish in that race doesn’t exactly scream contender here. That race was won by King Guillermo, who will be one of the horses to watch in division #2 of the 2020 Arkansas Derby.
His lone win was at Turfway park, which is Kentucky’s least imposing track in terms of competition. And, like My Friends Beer, he couldn’t even beat an allowance field in his last race. It’s probably not happening for Mo Mosa.
If you want to try to throw out Charlatan in this race because you don’t like the value and are worried that he’s too green, here is another direction that you might choose to go. Gouverneur Morris has won two of his four races to date. And the losses came with respectable finishes (2nd and 4th) in a pair of graded stakes.
He last raced in the Florida Derby at the end of March, so he’s on what would be considered a normal schedule. That puts him in line for a good effort in this one. Add in the outstanding connections I charge of this one and you can certainly see him as a threat.
#5: Jungle Runner (Tyler Baze, Steven Asmussen) 30-1
In Baze and Asmussen, you at least have pretty good connections here. You’ll be hearing Asmussen’s name a lot in this article, as he has a pair of runners in each of the two divisions. Of those four, however, Jungle Runner is probably the hardest to recommend.
The owners had to supplement Jungle Runner just to get him in the field, so at least they have some confidence in him. But he hasn’t been within shouting distance in his last several races against fields much weaker than this. No need to consider him here.
#6: Shooters Shoot (Joe Talamo, Peter Eurton) 12-1
This colt chased Charlatan to a second-place finish when the heavy favorite broke his maiden. And there’s something to be said for him slotting in behind him again. Since that race, Shoooters Shoot has found his best stride.
He followed up the loss to Charlatan with a maiden win in California. He then proved amenable to Oaklawn with an allowance victory. You can’t doubt that he’s trending in the right direction, although it’s doubtful that he’s solid enough to overcome Charlatan at this point.
#7: Wrecking Crew (Flavien Prat, Peter Miller) 12-1
Handicappers often latch onto horses making their second start off a layoff even against all common sense. But Wrecking Crew fits that qualification and he actually has the stuff to compete all things being equal. If he gets a nice performance spike, he could be one to watch.
You’ve got a colt who was 3rd in the most prestigious race for 2-year-olds last year. In his first start this year, he jumped right into the San Felipe Stakes against Authentic. Look for him to come out strong in this one and easily outperform his modest morning line odds.
It’s been more than two months since his 2020 debut, meaning that he’s more first-start-off-layoff than second. That lone start was a bit of a disappointing 5th in the Risen Star. Now he has to try to rev right back up to top form and shake off the rust.
Anneau d’Or seemed a Triple Crown contender when he finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile a year ago. But he hasn’t been able to regain that form in his two races since. He’s too much of an unknown right now to be a good play.
It’s interesting that he’s an extreme long shot in this weaker division and Finnick The Fierce is getting the same kind of attention in the second, much tougher split. The last race for both, Winning Impression beat Finnick The Fierce across the line. But he was then disqualified for an interference violation.
All that aside, the major concern here is the class. To this point, this colt has only proven he’s allowance material. Even with a trainer as solid as Stewart, leaping up to face this group seems like a quest destined to be unsuccessful.
Finding the right surface for a young horse can be a tricky bit of business. Crypto Cash showed sprinter chops on the dirt as a 2-year-old. And he has also been pretty solid in recent two turf races as well.
Now he moves back to the dirt surface for the 2020 Arkansas Derby. There is a lot of uncertainty here that makes him a less than appealing play. Maybe an exotic choice, at best, but even that seems iffy.
#11: Basin (Ricardo Santana Jr., Steven Asmussen) 8-1
This is the only horse in the field with a graded stakes win under his belt, and it was a Grade 1 at that. It came last summer in a sprint at Saratoga. But he hasn’t been able to follow up on that success as a sophomore.
A solid 3rd in the Grade 2 Rebel behind Nadal was respectable. But it’s a bit harder to reconcile his 4th in a non-graded stakes in his follow-up. You’d like to see trending upward into this tough test, especially with the outside post working against him.
#1: Finnick The Fierce (Martin Garcia, Rey Hernandez) 30-1
Normally you’d say that a win in his last race was a confidence-builder. But he won that race, an allowance at Oaklawn, with the help of a disqualification. So it’s debatable whether Finnick The Fierce is going into this one brimming with confidence.
His two off-the-board finishes in graded stakes this year don’t bode well for his chances. At best, he might be a closing fourth if everything breaks right. Other than your superfecta tickets, you should probably avoid.
Stakes races are always going to bring in horses that are a bit over their hand. After all, if someone said all you had to do was beat ten horses and you’d pocket a couple hundred grand, you’d be tempted as well. Hence, Saratogian taking a stab here.
He did win his debut, so that’s something. But he also finished way up the track in his last race. Expecting some sort of third-start leap into contention here is probably a foolish move.
#3: Storm The Court (Flavien Prat, Peter Eurton) 10-1
The morning line odds suggest that he is no longer eating out for free on the basis of his 2019 Breeders Cup Juvenile upset win. And yet it’s still hard to completely wipe that stellar effort from memory. It’s tempting to see those odds, think back, and take the dive.
In truth, Storm The Court hasn’t been an embarrassment in his two stakes losses this year. Yet he also hasn’t been close to wins in either. Maybe his first time out of California for a race will spark a resurgence to previous form.
#4: King Guillermo (Samuel Camacho Jr., Juan Carlos Avila) 6-1
“Can he do it again” will be the question ringing around the Oaklawn grounds on Saturday whenever this colt’s name is mentioned. His last start he was completely forgotten about at the windows, to the tune of odds near 50 to 1. He then went out and absolutely dominated the Tampa Bay Derby.
That puts him in solid position for a Kentucky Derby spot even without a win here. But he could really put his name higher in the mix with a second straight graded stakes victory. There’s also the possibility of a bounce in the wrong direction, though, which makes him risky even at middling odds.
#5: Nadal (Joel Rosario, Bob Baffert) 7-5
Baffert has been steadily upping the distance and competition in a classic preparation for Derby contention. The fact that the race has now been moved three months down the road might have confused those plans. But it doesn’t change the fact that this horse is meant to peak on the first Saturday in May, even if it’s not the race he expected.
The once concern is that he seems committed to a front-end style, which could be problematic at 1 1/8 miles. And obviously you’re giving up some value. But bottom line: Is there somebody in here who can rise up and beat him?
#6: Code Runner (Stewart Elliott, Steven Asmussen) 50-1
In each of the two splits, Asmussen has one dreamer and one horse with an outside chance. Code Runner is definitely the dreamer in here. The veteran Elliott has come big wins under his belt, but he’ll have to summon up something completely unexpected here.
The tracks where Code Runner has recently competed, places like Sunland and Sam Houston, aren’t usually breeding grounds for champions. And it’s not like he was cleaning up at those places. 50 to 1 might be a bit generous in actuality.
#7: Silver Prospector (Ricardo Santana Jr. Steven Asmussen) 6-1
There is always something to be said for the busy campaigner in races like this. You don’t have to worry as much about where they’re at form-wise, since their used to going out once a month and winging it. With nine races under his debut last summer, Silver Prospector certainly fits that mold.
He has won multiple graded stakes, so it’s not like he’s been battling claimers every month with his busy schedule. There is also evidence of a bounce coming that could bode well for his chances. This is definitely a threat.
#8: Fast Enough (Tyler Baze, Rafael Becerra) 30-1
His name suggests a kind of “meh” performer, and, in this field, that might be the case. The big concern is how much he has to stretch out off a layoff. His last start was in February and was only seven furlongs.
On the bright side, he did score a win around two turns back in January. But the overall performance level would have to be much higher for him to overcome the other handicapping red flags. He has promise, but this isn’t the spot for him.
#9: Taishan (David Cohen, Richard Baltas) 15-1
If nothing else, he shouldn’t be rusty in here. His last race was just three weeks ago, a third-place finish in a non-graded stakes at Oaklawn. That effort was a bit of a disappointment, as he came into the race with some class edge on the field.
He hasn’t picked up a win around two turns yet, although that isn’t a dealbreaker at this point in his career. If he were in the first division, you could probably envision a scenario where he was top three. Not in this one though.
Right off the bat, the connections demand some attention. And in terms of running style, Farmington Road’s stalker/closer could work well. Nadal and Wells Bayou could create a pace favorable to late kickers.
He also has a couple races under his belt at this distance, which gives him a leg up on some of the favorites. There is a bit of a class question. But everything else seems to be pointing in his direction.
#11: Wells Bayou (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox) 6-1
In terms of recent form, Wells Bayou has an edge on just about everyone except Nadal. He comes in with a place and a win in his last two races. The victory in the Louisiana Derby proved his capability on a big stage.
The big negative here is the post position, especially for a horse who wants to fly out early. Nadal is much better suited, post-position wise, to be a successful pacesetter. Instead, Wells Bayou looks like a poor value play.
2020 Arkansas Derby Winner Picks
There isn’t much value at top horse racing websites in taking Charlatan in the first division of the 2020 Arkansas Derby, but it takes too much of a leap in logic to see anybody beat him. He’s your winner, so look for value in the exotics. Go with Wrecking Crew for the place and Shooters Shoot for the show.
Division 1 Winner:Charlatan
This one has all the makings of a donnybrook. Nadal will have bigger battles down the line, so it’s possible that he comes up short here, with Silver Prospector stepping up for the upset. Nadal settles for second with Farmington Road getting third.
Division 2 Winner:Silver Prospector
Jim Beviglia joined Gamblingsites.org as a staff writer in 2018, parlaying his years of freelance writing into contributions on a number of different topics. He handles the sport of horse racing for GamblingSites.org and the intersection between the worlds of cryptocurrency and online gambling in a weekly blog.
For his full-time job, Jim handles the television and track announcing duties at a h ...
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