This week in horse racing: Arkansas, Florida Derbies

By Jeremy Plonk  ( 

March 29, 2022 04:18 PM

The road to the Kentucky Derby picks up several passengers Saturday at Gulfstream Park’s Florida Derby and Oaklawn’s Arkansas Derby. Turfway Park in Northern Kentucky also will audition its best. By day’s end, a quarter (or more) of the starting gate for the first Saturday in May could be filled out. 

Ladies (and most-intriguing storyline) first: The Arkansas Derby presents flashy filly Secret Oath for 86-year-old training legend D. Wayne Lukas. Meanwhile, the Florida Derby will rematch Gulfstream winter-season stakes winners Simplification and White Abarrio while welcoming Tampa Bay Derby victor Classic Causeway.  

Handicappers following stakes races at Gulfstream Park during the winter championship meet have witnessed the following trends: 

Stakes favorites: 38.5% wins, 72.3% top 3 

Average $2 winning stakes payout: $9.24 

Top stakes jockeys: Jose Ortiz (5-18, 28%), Luis Saez (12-45, 27%), Irad Ortiz Jr. (5-23, 22%)  

Top stakes trainers: Eddie Plesa (3-6, 50%), Todd Pletcher (13-35, 37%), Christophe Clement (4-13, 31%)

What to Watch for This Week 

Saturday’s Florida Derby Day card at Gulfstream features 14 races, six stakes worth $2.2 million and a pair of $750,000 guaranteed pools in the late Pick 4 and Pick 5 … Sunday is the final program of the championship meet at Gulfstream Park, necessitating a mandatory payout in the Rainbow 6 pool and any carryover money that exists … Trainer Bob Baffert should have solid favorites on the Arkansas Derby undercard when Cezanne leads the field in the $400,000 Oaklawn Mile and Eda tops Kentucky Oaks hopefuls in the $600,000 Fantasy … Charles Town in West Virginia will have a mandatory payout of its jackpot Pick 6 wager Friday night. The pool has more than $136,000 in carryover money heading into the week. 

Friday Weekend Firestarter 

In Friday’s Race 7 at Gulfstream Park, No. 6 Blessed Journey will make his first start since joining the barn of Florida’s hottest trainer, Jose Francisco D’Angelo. Blessed Journey was claimed last out from a low-profile barn and should move up immediately after back-to-back fourth-place finishes. D’Angelo trainees are 9-for-19 at Gulfstream since March 9, winning at a staggering rate of 47%. The move to jockey Jose Ortiz only strengthens the hand. 

1/ST BET App Top Handicapping Tracks of the Week 

The free 1/ST BET app allows you to apply millions of data points across dozens of handicapping factors in mere seconds and immediately place your wagers. Here’s where the artificial intelligence was most dialed-in last week by win percentage: 

— Aqueduct: 50% 

— Fonner Park: 42% 

— Charles Town: 39% 

— Tampa Bay Downs: 39% 

— Penn National: 37% 

Tracks with most reliable favorites last week (by win pct.) 

— Fonner Park: 57% 

— Penn National: 50% 

— Will Rogers Downs: 50% 

— Mahoning Valley: 48% 

— Tampa Bay Downs: 45% 

— Aqueduct: 45% 

Tracks that were long-shot havens last week (most winners 10-1 or higher) 

— Fair Grounds: 9 

— Turfway Park: 8 

— Tampa Bay Downs: 7 

— Aqueduct: 5 

— Parx: 5 

— Turf Paradise: 5 

America’s hot jockeys last week 

— Joel Rosario (8-19, 42%), Fair Grounds, Oaklawn, Sunland 

— Arnaldo Bocachica (7-22, 32%), Laurel, Charles Town 

— Armando Martinez (6-19, 32%), Fonner Park 

— Stewart Elliott (7-23, 30%), Sam Houston 

— Mitchell Murrill (6-20, 30%), Fair Grounds 

America’s hot trainers last week 

— Anthony Farrior (8-15, 58%), Charles Town, Laurel 

— Doug O’Neill (7-17, 41%), Santa Anita, Sunland, Golden Gate* 

— Claudio Gonzalez (5-15, 33%), Laurel, Charles Town, Penn National 

— Jonathan Wong (8-28, 29%), Golden Gate, Santa Anita, Turf Paradise 

— Steve Asmussen (16-59, 27%), Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Sam Houston, Oaklawn, Sunland, Turfway* 

* — Does not include Dubai races 

Derby Prep Safety Net 

1/ST BET and Xpressbet are offering up to a $10 money-back special on win bets in Saturday’s Florida Derby and Arkansas Derby. Players using those platforms will receive the wagering credit refund if their win bet in either race finishes second or third. 

Statistics courtesy of Betmix

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