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They say ‘it’s unprecedented in American racing history’ that this 84th Arkansas Derby will again be run in two divisions, the first in 1960, with Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert having both race favourites.

As 7/5 race favourite in Division 1 the unbeaten Bob Baffert trained Charlatan who has the prediction of controlling the race due to little early speed, and drawing the fence for jockey Martin Garcia.

Charlatan also fits the Baffert programme of being unraced at two years, winning a maiden and allowance race at his first two starts at three, then stepping-up to Group 1 company at his third start.

In already being 6/1 equal favourite for the Kentucky Derby, Charlatan has been prepared for the Arkansas Derby with the programme of three identical six furlongs gallops in training.

Bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Thoroughbreds, Charlatan was purchased by CF Bloodstock for $700,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, on behalf of owners Starlight Racing.

In Stonestreet retaining an ownership share, Charlatan is by the successful Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Speightstown, from the Gr 1 placed Gr 2 winner Authenticity, by Quiet American.

A half brother to stakes placed winner Hanalei Moon, he is from the immediate family of Appealing Missy, Rahy’s Appeal, Statement and The Rectifier.

Bob Baffert also has the imposing unbeaten Rebel Stakes and San Vicente Stakes winner Nadal, as the 7/5 favourite in Division 2, and to be ridden by Joel Rosario.

Also unraced at two-years, Nadal was bred by Sierra Farms being by the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Blame from the placed Pulpit mare Ascending Angel, the family of Pleasant Stage and Journey Home.

Sold by Randy Bradshaw for $700,000 at the 2019 Fasig Tipton Gulfstream Select 2YO Sale, Bradshaw pin hooked Nadal for $65,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

This year the original $1 million Arkansas Derby purse will be split into two $500,000 divisions with each having full 170 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby.

Oaklands Park moved the Arkansas Derby from its tradition Saturday 11 April date to the final day of its Racing Festival of The South on Saturday 2 May, due to the Conorvirus pandemic.

Traditionally the date of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs decided to beat COVIT-19 restrictions by running the 146th Run to The Roses on Saturday 5 September, away from Saturday 2 May.

The Arkansas Derby has been the feature of the Racing Festival of The South since 1936 in Hot Springs, Arkansas when the Jack Carter owned and trained Holly Image won for a $5,000 total purse.

A Grade 1 three-year-old event of 1 1/8 mile on dirt, the Arkansas Derby prep season features the Gr2 Rebel Stakes run in March, Gr2 Southwest Stakes in February and listed The Smarty Jones in January.

However, this year the second running of the Oaklawn Stakes for three-year-olds of 1 1/8 mile was run on the traditional Arkansas Derby Day, with the 46/1 outsider Mr Big News scoring an upset.

Mr Big News gained automatic entry into the Preakness Stakes for trainer Bret Calhoun, but is not starting in the Arkansas Derby, with placegetters Farmington Road and Taishan racing in Division 2.

The highly fancied 4/5-on Nadal handled the sloppy track in winning the Rebel Stakes of 1 1/16 mile, when ridden by Joel Rosario.  The Steve Asmussen trained Excession and Basin filled the placings.

Steve Asmussen took out the Southwest Stakes of 1 1/16 mile with the 7/2 shot Silver Prospector for owners Ed and Susie Orr. Previously he had Gold Street handle the sloppy conditions to win in The Smarty Jones of 1m, for jockey Martin Garcia at odds of 10/1.

The 12th Triple Crown hero American Pharoah not only won the Arkansas Derby in 2015 but also became the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. Commencing with the Rebel Stakes he then took out the Arkansas Derby before winning the Kentucky Derby.

In winning the Arkansas Derby in 2007 Curlin went onto claim the Eclipse Awards in 2007, 2008 in also winning the Preakness Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Dubai World Cup in 2008.

However, its Smarty Jones who brought the Arkansas Derby to national prominence on winning the Kentucky Derby and collecting the $5m Oaklawn Park Bonus.

In celebrating its Centenary in 2004 Oaklawn Park offered a $5m bonus for the winner of the Rebel Stakes, Arkansas Derby and Kentucky Derby. Smarty Jones did just that and also collected the Kentucky Derby’s $854,000 winning purse.

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