Handicapping Hour for Oaklawn Park – Arkansas Derby Day 2024

Guests AGOS Founder Rich Nilsen and top bankroll player Frank Mustari

Nilsen and Mustari join Mark and Steve Simonvic on their weekly Oaklawn Handicapping Hour to discuss the Saturday card in Hot Springs, AR.   It is the 87th running of the Arkansas Derby and 13 races are on tap. Nilsen and Mustari discuss their picks in the late Pick-5.

Related: MUTH looks to take Arkansas Derby to give Bob Baffert his 5th win in the race and point to the Preakness Stakes.

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AGOS Horses to Watch: UAE Derby Won by Crown Pride | Arkansas Derby

Will Japan Be a Threat in the Kentucky Derby?

After a wildy successful 2021 Breeders’ Cup, Japan could be back to make a big splash in the Kentucky Derby.  Crown Pride (Jpn) debuted at 9 furlongs (1 1/8 miles) winning by 6 lengths last fall in Japan.  He won again at that distance before receiving a short winter break.  He returned in a one mile race where he got demolished at the start and then raced wide on the backstretch into the far turn. This was a sneaky great performance.  Off that troubled trip, he scored in the UAE Derby on the World Cup undercard, a card dominated by runners from Japan.

This sophomore colt was much the best in the UAE Derby and won with his ears pricked up in the final 50 yards.  Crown Pride will love the stretch out to 10 furlongs and he has won on both right-handed and left-handed courses.  The runner-up had a perfect trip and no excuse for not holding on.  I don’t like his chance if he comes to the U.S.A.

2022 Arkansas Derby

Cyberknife, trained by Brad Cox, unseated his rider in the post parade but that wasn’t an issue when it came time for the gates to open.  The son of Gun Runner sat a great trip behind the early leaders, made a move into the far turn and then held sway in the lane.  The filly Secret Oath ran a big race.  She got bounced around at the start.  She was in traffic on the backstretch and at about the 4 furlong pole, she dropped back to last.  Jockey Luis Contreras then asked her to run and she swept by the field with ease to move into third, then into second while charging at the leader down the lane.  The jock got lacksidiscal late and she got run down for the place spot.  Trainer D. Wayne Lukas was hardly pleased and he has named a new rider for the filly.

Barber Road was green in the lane, made a nice, inside run late and galloped out well.  He hasn’t had a break since early last fall.  Favorite Doppelganger didn’t have the best of trips but ran a disappointing race as a distant 4th.


Handicapping Tip of the Day #28 – Who Can Win the KY Derby?

2013 KY Derby contender Verrazanoby Art Parker

In the last several decades over 80% of the Derby winners finished either first or second in one of the following major prep races: Spiral Stakes, Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby, Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby, Arkansas Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes.

On occasion there will be exceptions to this rule but it is hard to ignore the Derby results these races have posted.

There are a couple of reasons for these races being so important to the Derby. First, most of these races serve as the last “big prep” before the Derby and almost all serious contenders will run in one of these, plus the purses of these races are very appealing. Secondly, the cream of the crop shows up at these races, which are generally held four to five weeks before the Derby making these races the best indicator of current form.

It’s unlikely the winner on the first Saturday in May will exit a race other than one these major preps.