The Grade 1 Arkansas Derby is the highlight of the spring racing season at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and is considered one of the most important prep races for horses vying for a spot in the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown chase. In fact, in the past two years the Arkansas Derby results have been a solid indicator of Triple Crown success, as American Pharoah won the race in 2015 before sweeping the Triple Crown, and Creator took the Belmont Stakes after winning the Arkansas Derby in 2016.
First run in 1936, the Derby has always been run at 1 1/8 miles over the dirt course and currently offers a purse of $1,000,000, and is run every year in mid-April.
Arkansas Derby Picks
When you're ready to make your Arkansas Derby picks, remember that you can add to your bottom line with cash back and other bonuses on all horse racing bets placed with an online racebook like the ones recommended below.
Arkansas Derby Entries
As the last of the three Oaklawn Stakes races restricted to three-year-old horses (following the Southwest Stakes and the Rebel Stakes) several of the horses entered in the Arkansas Derby every year have already raced against each other, and this gives handicappers lots of information to work with.
One of the biggest problems in handicapping is rating the performance of horses that have never run against each other, against each other, but when you have a series of races at the same track with many of the same runners, this problem is solved.
For example, Creator won the 2016 Arkansas after finishing third in the Rebel. In that race, run at 1 1/16 miles, he was last in the field out of the gate and made slow forward progress until shifting out five-wide with about a quarter mile to go, and was gaining on the horses in front of him in the run to the finish.
One month later, in the 1 1/8 mile Arkansas, and facing six of the same horses, he used almost exactly the same strategy, but with the added distance, was able to reel in the leaders and win.
Arkansas Derby Racing Tips
Even with the legendary American Pharoah bet down to almost even-money odds when he won in 2015, two of the last three years have produced double-digit winners in the race, including Creator at 12-1 and Danza (2014) at 41-1, making for an average Win payout of just over $37.00.
So while it is a small sample size, recent history at least would indicate the Arkansas is a race where longshots deserve a second look. Also deserving consideration is any horse saddled by Todd Pletcher, as the Hall of Fame trainer has won the race four times, including back-to-back in 2013/14.
Although the filly Althea holds the race record time in the Arkansas since winning in 1984, more recent years have not been kind to females, as no filly has won since.
Looking down the road to the Triple Crown, since 1992 six runners in the Arkansas have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby, while seven others have gone on to win the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes, or both. In 1998 Victory Gallop took the Arkansas and then beat Real Quiet by the slimmest of noses at the wire in the Belmont Stakes, thus denying the Hall of Fame colt a Triple Crown title. And two decades earlier, Golden Act won the Arkansas, and then finished second in all three Triple Crown races, including the Belmont where Spectacular Bid could only run third, after winning the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
Prior to American Pharoah, the last horse to win the Arkansas and then go on capture the Kentucly Derby was fan favorite Smarty Jones, who turned the trick in 2004.