The first Saturday in May should have brought the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby. Then COVID-19 intervened.
Instead, May 2 will bring an important Derby prep race, albeit four months before the Run for the Roses’ new date on Sept. 5. And it will bring a wrinkle.
Oaklawn Park officials will split the 1 ⅛-mile Grade I into two 11-colt divisions with $500,000 in prize money and 170 points good for Kentucky Derby entry available in each segment. Each winner will earn 100 entry points, with subsequent finishers taking 40, 20 and ten.
The Arkansas Derby on Saturday was originally scheduled for April 11. Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas has been one of the few tracks in the United States to maintain a live meet without spectators.
“We’re trying to make the best of a very, very difficult situation,” Oaklawn President Louis Cella said. “On the one hand, it is the worst of times to be racing without fans in our grandstand. On the other, we have a large number of exceptional 3-year-olds wanting to run in our Arkansas Derby. We simply did not want to see anyone lose that opportunity.”
Arkansas Derby details
The second race, which is slated to go to post at 6:43 p.m. CST, features greater star power in Breeder’s Cup juvenile champion Storm the Court and unbeaten Nadal, trained by Bob Baffert. The five-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer has untested and undefeated Charlatan in the first race, which is scheduled for 5:29 p.m. CST on Fox Sports 1, TVG and NBC Sports.
Nadal has already won at Oaklawn, having claimed the Grade II Rebel Stakes on March 14.
For Arkansas Derby betting, Charlatan will break from the first post as the even-money favorite. Nadal, starting in the fifth slot, is the 5-2 favorite in the second race with Storm the Court third pick from the third gate in what is currently the last Derby prep scheduled. Churchill Downs officials are exploring adding more with so much time remaining until the rescheduled date.
“We’re in the midst of an unprecedented year,” Churchill Downs racetrack President Kevin Flanery said. “We recognize that there are numerous 3-year-olds currently in training with limited racing opportunities, and our prominent partner Oaklawn Park is in a unique and important position to immediately fill a void for horsemen. An extension of the Road to the Kentucky Derby will continue to evolve in the weeks ahead.”
Much to the dismay of horse bettors, this year will mark just the second time that the Derby has been moved from its traditional May slot.