By Bob Ehalt
With the weeks before the Kentucky Derby dwindling down to a precious few, this weekend will provide a few horses with the opportunity to lock up a spot in the Run for the Roses.
The Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park and the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland bring down the curtain on the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, with the Arkansas Derby serving as the year’s last major prep before the May 5 opening leg of the Triple Crown.
While the Lexington is worth 20-8-4-2 points for the first four finishers, the Arkansas Derby offers 100-40-20-10 points and the top two finishers could wrap up spots in the Kentucky Derby. Could is the optimal word since 40 points may not be enough to crack the 19 remaining spots.
The Arkansas Derby attracted a field of nine and features a rematch of the top three finishers in the Rebel Stakes, Magnum Moon, Solomini and Combatant.
Magnum Moon, trained by Todd Pletcher, is undefeated after three career starts, all at three, and posted a 3 ½-length triumph in the Rebel, his stakes debut. He was pegged as the 8-5 morning-line favorite.
Solomini was second best in the Rebel, while making his 2018 debut. Trained by Bob Baffert, Solomini figures to be a tougher rival with that race under his belt and was installed as the 2-1 second-choice in the Grade 1 stakes.
Combatant (6-1) finished a head behind Solomini, and, though he is winless at three, he has been a gem of consistency in his last four races, finishing second three times and third once.
Another main threat is Quip (9-2), who is coming off a victory in the Tampa Bay Derby that assured him of a spot in the Kentucky Derby.
The rest of the field includes Beautiful Shot (30-1), Machismo (20-1), Tenfold (10-1), Dream Baby Dream (15-1) and Plainsman (30-1).
In the Lexington, My Boy Jack is the 5-2 favorite and has 32 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series. A victory would secure a Derby berth for the Keith Desormeaux-trained colt, while a second would leave him on the bubble.
A close third in the Louisiana Derby in his last start, My Boy Jack will have to overcome the inherent problems of breaking from post 12 in the mile-and-a-sixteenth Lexington.
Other top contenders in the race include Telekinesis (4-1), Battle At Sea (8-1), Seven Trumpets (8-1) and Greyvitos (6-1).
Stamford Handicapping Challenge set for Saturday
It should also be a big weekend for Winners customers who enter the $5,000 Winners Stamford Handicapping Challenge.
To be held on Saturday at the new Winners Stamford, located at 268 Atlantic Street in Stamford, first place will be worth $3,000.
The contest will feature races from Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park, Keeneland and Parx.
For more information, visit https://www.mywinners.com/why-mywinners/we-fund-it-you-win-it/ .
Anyone looking for advice should check out the Winners Twitter account (@MyWinnersCT) on Saturday as I’ll be at the helm for a Twitter Takeover, offering selections for races at Aqueduct and Keeneland.