Improbable far from impossible in Arkansas Derby

The Grade I Arkansas Derby, the final 170-point Kentucky Derby prep, takes place this Saturday at Oaklawn. The 1 1/8-mile dirt event drew a field of 11, led by both of last month’s Rebel division winners, OMAHA BEACH and LONG RANGE TODDY, as well as Bob Baffert’s IMPROBABLE. Post time for the Arkansas Derby, Race 11 of 12 on the day, is 7:43 p.m. Eastern. Over an inch of rain is expected fall at Oaklawn on Saturday, so handicappers should expect a muddy track.

#1 IMPROBABLE (8-5, morning-line favorite) was a hard-luck loser in the Rebel last time out. He raced wide throughout off a four-month layoff and was nailed late by LONG RANGE TODDY, who saved ground most of the way. Baffert puts blinkers on IMPROBABLE and makes a jockey change to Jose Ortiz, both of which should help. The son of City Zip has fired two bullet works to prep for the Arkansas Derby. Assuming he isn’t baited into an early speed duel, IMPROBABLE should be able to avenge his first career defeat.

#3 OMAHA BEACH (2-1) dug in bravely to fend off GAME WINNER in the Rebel when last seen. Two starts ago, he won a maiden race in the slop at Santa Anita by nine lengths. OMAHA BEACH’s victory over GAME WINNER doesn’t look as great off that rival’s no-excuse second in the Santa Anita Derby last Saturday, but he must be respected in this spot. Mike Smith has tactical options on the son of War Front.

#7 GALILEAN (10-1) grinded his way to a third-place finish in the division of the Rebel won by LONG RANGE TODDY in his most recent start. He retains Flavien Prat for this start but loses the blinkers, suggesting a change in strategy is forthcoming. If GALILEAN is able to relax off the pace and make one late run, he could produce a strong rally.

#11 LONG RANGE TODDY (5-1) moves up if there’s a scratch. It seems unlikely Jon Court will be able to work out the same kind of trip he did when he won the Rebel last month from this post. Before that most recent effort, LONG RANGE TODDY’s speed figures had been somewhat lacking.

The play: $5 trifecta 1/3/7, $3 trifecta 1/7/3, $2 trifecta 3/1/7 ($10)

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