The Arkansas Derby has been run since 1936, and it has been an important stop on the Triple Crown trail for many years. Despite its strong reputation,
though, just two winners of the race have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby ó Sunnyís Halo in 1983 and Smarty Jones in 2004. That doesnít mean that winners
of the race are mostly irrelevant, though. Since Smarty Jones emerged from the race, Afleet Alex won and then won two Triple Crown races, Curlin won the
Arkansas Derby and the Preakness, and Bodemeister was second in both the Derby and Preakness in 2012. Also, since 1989, four different horses have won the
Kentucky Derby after finishing in the top four in the Arkansas Derby as their final prep race. So, can this yearís field produce another major player on
this yearís wide open Triple Crown trail? Letís take a look at some 2014 Arkansas Derby picks and predictions ( futures odds to win the race are from Sportsbook.ag):
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The biggest prep race for the Arkansas Derby is the Rebel Stakes. The winner of that race, held on March 15, was Hoppertunity. He will not be in this field
because he ran in the Santa Anita Derby and finished second. Heís just waiting for the Kentucky Derby to start. The next three finishers in that race are
all back here, though, and all will be serious contenders.
was second in the Rebel. Since then he has unwittingly found himself at the center of a controversy. Trainer Steve Asmussen was the subject of a sting
operation by PETA, and he was found to be abusing horses under his care. It was an assistant trainer who was most at fault, and he has been fired. Asmussen
has lost significant business since the issue arose, but he was able to keep this horse in his stable. To help his chances of keeping the horse, Asmussen
has upgraded jockeys. Joel Rosario will be on board in place of Ricardo Santana. The horse has run three times on the Churchill Downs track, and he should
be able to handle the Derby distance, so if he comes out of this race well he will be among the top tier of Derby betting interests.
Ride on Curlin (+500) and Strong Mandate (+500)
are the other two. Ride on Curlin, not surprisingly a son of the great Curlin, already has eight career starts, including three at Churchill Downs ó though
he hasnít won at that track. Heís brilliantly bred and very talented, but he needs to prove that he is good enough to beat top horses and not just compete
with them. I really want to like him in the Kentucky Derby, but he hasnít earned that yet. Strong Mandate is another very talented horse, but he has yet to
show even a little bit of consistency, so he has a lot to prove here before he can be seen as a real threat.
The best of the rest
is a favorite based purely on potential. He has run only twice, and both times were at three. They were both wins ó the second by a stunning 15 lengths in
an allowance race. He is making his stakes debut here, though, and thanks to a minor injury he hasnít raced since Feb. 13. He needs to finish at least
second to make the Derby, and a first-place finish would be better because he would certainly earn enough points to make the field. This Bob Baffert
trainee has oodles of talent. But is he ready for this test? Remember, no horse since Apollo in 1882 has won the Derby without a race at two.
Being a son of Birdstone certainly hasnít been a bad thing on the Triple Crown recently (he is the sire of both Mine That Bird and Summer Bird, among
others), so Conquest Titan (+400) is worth a look. This horse is physically impressive, and he has plenty of experience. In the Breedersí
Cup Juvenile last year I really liked him going in, but he was ridden to ridiculous early fractions and was a non-factor. He has been converted to more of
a closer this year, though, and itís a much better fit. At this price he is one to watch in a deep field.
will be looking to make it two in a row in this race for trainer Todd Pletcher after he pulled off a minor upset with Overanalyze last year. Heís making a
desperate stab for Derby points here, though, after falling short in the Fountain of Youth and Sunland Derby. The fact that he is a son of A.P. Indy
certainly catches my eye, but I find it hard to believe that he is really a top-level threat.
Docís Sports expert horse racing handicapper Raphael Esparza is handicapping the Arkansas
Derby, and you can get his picks for free! Docís is offering $60 worth of memberís picks absolutely free Ė no obligation, no sales people Ė you donít even
have to enter credit card information. You can use this $60 credit any way you please for any handicapper and any sport on Docís Sports Advisory Board list
of expert sports handicappers, and this credit can be used towards Raphael Esparzaís Arkansas Derby picks.
Click here for more details and take advantage of this free $60 picks credit today
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham