Kentucky Derby Dream Bet Arkansas Derby, Lexington picks from Vance Hanson

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April 15th, 2016

Saturday's $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) and $150,000 Lexington (G3) marks the end of the Road to the Kentucky Derby Series, but also the final round of's $25,000 Kentucky Derby Dream Bet. Playing chalk isn't going to do me much good at this stage as I'm lagging behind in the race for office/department bragging rights, so we'll take a couple shots against the favorites in both races.

Cupid is the horse to beat in the Arkansas Derby and I really do like his chances to follow-up on his victory last out in the Rebel (G2), but I also think Creator (#3, 10-1) is getting good at the right time. The late-blooming son of Tapit and the long-winded Peruvian mare Morena ran second four times in his first five outings before getting off the duck in a February 27 Oaklawn maiden, winning with authority by more than seven lengths.

Thrown straight to the wolves in the Rebel, Creator, as usual, lagged far behind in the early stages. Trailing the field of 14 by 15 lengths at the first call, he got closer as the field bunched up around the far turn but was still 10th at the quarter pole. Rallying five wide, Creator improved his position considerably in the stretch and finished third, three lengths behind Cupid.

Creator has absolutely no early foot to speak of, which is not what you want to see in a large field like this. However, if one or more rivals attempt to keep Cupid more honest this go round, Creator might get sufficient help to get in the mix late.

The Lexington appears as if it won't have much impact on the composition of the Kentucky Derby. All of its major contenders are behind the eight ball in terms of the amount of points they've accrued to make the Derby field, and only 10 eligibility points are available to the winner of this 1 1/16-mile contest.

Swipe is making a belated return to the races and finally gets out of the shadow of Nyquist for the first time since last summer. Collected perhaps might be favored based on good form that is more current. However, I'll take a shot here with Synchrony (#5, 10-1), who is regrouping after leaving the Derby trail after a sub-par showing in the Southwest (G3).

The Pin Oak homebred broke his maiden over Keeneland's main track in October, and followed up with an allowance score at Churchill Downs in November. Sent to Oaklawn for the winter by trainer Donnie Von Hemel, Synchrony was a rallying third in the one-mile, short-stretch Smarty Jones, but was more dull in the Southwest, won by entrymate Suddenbreakingnews.

I like the fact Von Hemel backed off on the son of Tapit, putting the long-term interests of the horse ahead of any Derby aspirations. On paper, he fits with this group, and mild improvement and a return to his best form gives him a chance at making the frame.