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Home / Articles / Jeff's 2024 Grade 1 Arkansas Derby Selection

Jeff's 2024 Grade 1 Arkansas Derby Selection

By: Jeff Hochman     Date: Mar 27, 2024
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Grade 1 Arkansas Derby | March 30th | Race 12 | | 7:47 PM E |

#2 Timberlake (9/5), trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Flavien Prat

On Feb. 24, Timberlake won the Grade 2 1 1/16-mile Rebel Stakes by two lengths as the 4/5 favorite, marking his impressive return to the track for his 3-year-old debut. Timberlake is the son of Into Mischief, a leading sire. His juvenile campaign included a dominant win in the one-mile Grade 1 Champagne Stakes in October and a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile. After winning the Juvenile, he took a 3 ½-month break and returned to win the Rebel with a 105 Equibase Speed Figure.

Timberlake will face a more challenging field than in his Rebel Stakes race. His main competition includes Muth, who finished second in the BC Juvenile last fall and won the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes on Jan. 6 after just turning three years old. Another win contender is Mystik Dan, who won the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes on Feb. 3 at Oaklawn on a muddy surface with an impressive 110 Equibase Speed Figure. Mystik Dan owns the field's fastest late-pace speed figure (125).

Flavien Prat, who rode Catching Freedom to victory in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby last Saturday, will ride Timberlake for the first time. Prat and trainer Brad Cox previously collaborated to win the 2023 Grade 1 Arkansas Derby with Angel of Empire. Cox is aiming for his third consecutive win in the race, winning it in 2022 with Cyberknife. Prat will likely ride one of the morning line favorites in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on Apr. 6 and will have three horses to choose from on the first Saturday in May.

Muth will not have enough energy to perform well, as he has undergone three consecutive six-furlong training sessions. Although Bob Baffert is a superior trainer to me, it appears excessive for the horse. Moreover, Muth will be coming from California, and horses from that region have struggled to compete when making their first start at Oaklawn Park.

Timberlake is expected to have a good stalking trip by sitting just off the pace-setters. He has the second-fastest early pace (94.8), fastest middle pace (96.6), and second-fastest late pace (116.5). He already won at Oaklawn in his only start (Rebel), and jockey Flavien Prat and trainer Brad Cox win 26% when teaming up and finishing in the money 59% of the time.

My Selection: #2 Timberlake (9/5) to Win and Place

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