Betting Longshot Beautiful Shot in the Arkansas Derby

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

April 12th, 2018

To me, Saturday’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park presents an interesting handicapping quandary.

On paper, the nine-furlong Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race looks simple enough to handicap. The favorite is the unbeaten #6 Magnum Moon, who won the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) at Oaklawn last month by an authoritative 3 ½ lengths, earning a 100 BRIS speed figure. A repeat of that effort will likely land him in the Arkansas Derby winner’s circle.

Even if Magnum Moon falls short, #5 Solomini should be right there to take advantage at a short price. The talented colt finished second in the Rebel Stakes despite encountering a traffic-filled trip in his first start off a layoff, and last year, he held his own against some of the best two-year-olds in the country.

But for a variety of reasons, I’m tempted to play against both Magnum Moon and Solomini in the Arkansas Derby, at least to an extent. Magnum Moon has come a long way in a short period of time, and the Arkansas Derby will mark his fourth start since January—a pretty busy schedule these days. Throw in the fact that he was drifting around in the homestretch of the Rebel—a race that may have required a harder effort from Magnum Moon than it appears at first glance—and I think there’s a chance that he regresses on Saturday.

As for Solomini, his Rebel effort was solid given his troubled trip, but he strikes me as a bit of a grinder that needs just the right trip to win, and he also has a history of issues with changing leads at the top of the stretch—in the Rebel, he didn’t change at all.

With this in mind, I’m going to take what is admittedly a shot in the dark and try to get #1 Beautiful Shot on the board at a huge price. Trained by Keith Desormeaux, who sent out the maiden Sonneteer to finish second in the 2017 Rebel Stakes at odds of 112-1, Beautiful Shot kept good company as a sprinter in California last season and even won the Speakeasy Stakes over the next-out Smarty Jones Stakes winner Mourinho.

Following a winter break, Beautiful Shot returned to action in the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct, which marked his first start beyond a sprint distance. He was never seriously in contention while finishing eighth, but check out the replay—Beautiful Shot had a rough trip racing in tight quarters throughout the race and checked hard around the turn, essentially costing him any chance at hitting the board.

Desormeaux is showing confidence running Beautiful Shot right back in a Grade 1, so I’ll draw a line through Beautiful Shot’s Gotham effort and hope that he steps up at a huge price this time around. Since I think the favorites are vulnerable, I’ll keep things simple and bet Beautiful Shot across the board:

$10 to win/place/show on #1 Beautiful Shot ($30)

Good luck!