(Concert Tour winning the G2 Rebel Stakes / Coady Photography)
From the Oaklawn Park Media Team:
There’s a concert tour stopping late Saturday afternoon at Oaklawn and if it’s anything like March 13, it will be another virtuoso performance.
That’s because unbeaten Concert Tour, a homebred for Gary and Mary West, will be heavily favored to enhance his credentials as a leading Kentucky Derby candidate in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at 1 1/8 miles.
Probable post time for the Arkansas Derby, which will be televised live by NBC Sports Network, is 6:41 p.m. (Central). It goes as the 12th of 13 races. First post Saturday is 12:02 p.m., with the infield open, weather permitting.
The Arkansas Derby is one of four stakes Saturday at Oaklawn, the others being the $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) for older horses at 6 furlongs, $400,000 Oaklawn Mile for older horses and the $250,000 Carousel for older fillies and mares at 6 furlongs.
The projected six-horse Arkansas Derby field from the rail out following Tuesday’s post-position draw: Super Stock, Ricardo Santana Jr. to ride, 122 pounds, 6-1 on the morning line; Caddo River, Florent Geroux, 122, 7-2; Hozier, Martin Garcia, 118, 3-1; Get Her Number, Francisco Arrieta, 122, 6-1; Concert Tour, Joel Rosario, 122, even money; and Last Samurai, Jon Court, 118, 15-1.
Concert Tour is coming off an eye-catching 4 ¼-length victory in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles March 13, the final major local prep for the Arkansas Derby.
Concert Tour, in his two-turn debut and first start outside Southern California, zipped to the lead under Rosario, turned back Caddo River at the quarter pole and coasted home to remain unbeaten in three starts. It marked a record eighth Rebel victory for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who has owned Oaklawn’s four-race Kentucky Derby prep series the last decade.
Since the Arkansas Derby also brings back the 2-4-5-7 finishers from the Rebel, it means Concert Tour will be facing essentially the same group he dominated a month ago. Baffert trains Rebel runner-up Hozier, too.
“Those two horses, both are doing really well,” Baffert said. “It’s a short field. I’m surprised it was with all the horses that were up there this year, trying to get points.”
The Arkansas Derby will offer 170 points to the top four finishers (100-40-20-10) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby May 1 at Churchill Downs. The 1 ¼-mile race is limited to 20 starters, with starting preference given to the top 18 point earners in designated races like the Arkansas Derby. The top point earners on the European and Japan Road the Kentucky Derby will receive invitations.
Concert Tour earned 50 points for his Rebel victory and ranks No. 11 on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard compiled by Churchill Downs. Hozier (20 points) is No. 24, Grade 1 winner Get Her Number (10) is No. 29, Rebel fifth Caddo River (10) is No. 30 and Rebel fourth Super Stock (9) is No. 31. Get Her Number finished seventh in the Rebel.
Concert Tour has been on the same path as the Baffert-trained Nadal was in 2020, winning his career debut in January at Santa Anita, $200,000 San Vicente (G2) at Santa Anita in his second start and the Rebel in his third.
Nadal, like Concert Tour, was a front-running winner of the Rebel but used stalking tactics to capture the second division of the $500,000 Arkansas Derby (G1). Five years earlier, Baffert’s American Pharoah was a wire-to-wire winner of the Rebel before coming from off the pace to claim the Arkansas Derby en route to sweeping the Triple Crown.
Caddo River was a front-running 10 ¼-length winner of the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 22 at Oaklawn, but chose not to engage Concert Tour early in the Rebel. Asked if believed Concert Tour would be tracking Caddo River in the Arkansas Derby, “Baffert said, “I don’t know.”
“Concert Tour’s very fast,” Baffert said. “He’s quick, really fast. I think the break is important, how you leave there. You never know what’s going to happen. You don’t know what the strategy’s going to be. I just worry about my own horses. If he (Caddo River) goes, he (Rosario) will just ride his own horse and see what he does. My other horse has speed, too. Going a mile and an eighth, it’s a different story.”
Caddo River was favored over Concert Tour in the Rebel and looks to turn the tables Saturday with a more aggressive approach early, trainer Brad Cox said. Caddo River is again drawn inside of Concert Tour.
“Little more of a free-running horse, we think,” Cox said. “It (Rebel) was just his fifth start and he was coming off a little bit of a freshening, I guess you could say, being seven weeks between races. We’re just hoping that he can kind of get a little bit more of a forward run and maybe the jock drops his hands and kind of let him do his thing and get in a big rhythm and see if that works a little better than it did last time. If it doesn’t, were in trouble – bottom line.”
In addition to American Pharoah and Nadal, Baffert won the Arkansas Derby in 2012 with Bodemeister, who rolled by 9 ½ front-running lengths. Baffert also won the last year’s first division of the Arkansas Derby with the speedy Charlatan, but he was disqualified because of a medication violation. The case is under appeal. Overall, Baffert has 16 victories in Kentucky Derby prep races at Oaklawn – all since 2010. Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby a record-tying six times.
“I just feel fortunate that I have these two after losing Life Is Good,” Baffert said, referring to an injury that knocked his unbeaten colt off the Kentucky Derby trail. “It’s pretty tough, you know, but that’s why everything works itself out for the Derby. The horse will get you there.”
The Wests won the 1993 Arkansas Derby with Rockamundo, who paid $218.