April 16, 2011
HOT SPRINGS, AR (Saturday, April 16, 2011) – Hometown connections landed the Natural State’s greatest horse race Saturday as Robert and Val Yagos’s Archarcharch swept to the front in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park and held off a late charge of Nehro to punch his ticket for the Kentucky Derby (G1) in three weeks.
The Yagos family is from Jacksonville, Ark., while the trainer, Jinks Fires is from Riverdale, Ark. He gave the leg up to his son-in-law, jockey Jon Court, who posted his second consecutive neck victory in the Arkansas Derby after winning with Line of David last year.
Billed as the deepest Derby prep of the year, the race turned into target practice on the heavy 4-5 favorite, The Factor, the front-running winner of the Rebel Stakes last month. This time J P’s Gusto was pushed to the lead from the outside while Dance City, who delayed the start refusing to load, also rushed to pressure The Factor early. They ticked the quarter in 22.54 and a half-mile in 46.53 seconds. They were surrounded turning for home, and much as he did winning the Southwest Stakes (G3) in February, Archarcharch swept to them and accelerated away in the lane.
Nehro flew home late to get his second straight runner-up finish in a $1 million race, but Archarcharch was tops this day. He kicked off a raucous celebration in the winner’s circle after getting the 1 1/8th miles in 1:49.34 over a fast track and paying $52.40, 16.80 and 8.20. Dance City held on for third despite a troubled trip and his antics before the start.
“This horse is something special,” said Yagos, who owns a junk salvage yard as well as a farm in Jacksonville, population 31,650. “Jinks gave us confidence in this horse since day one. We haven’t gotten to take a deep breath since he crossed the wire. Jon and Jinks and the whole barn have done a great job with Archarcharch. This is a big thrill for the family and everyone involved.”
Jon Court becomes the first jockey since Garrett Gomez in 1994-95 with Concern and Dazzling Falls to win back-to-back Arkansas Derbys.
“This has just been a dream come true,” said Court. “We had a good start. We had a great position. Last time, we just had to go because no one else went with The Factor. This time, we were able to sit back and watch the speed duel unfold. We’re just so excited. Winning for Mr. Yagos and my father in law makes it all that much sweeter. Kentucky Derby here we come.”
For Fires, one of 11 brothers and sisters most of whom went into the horse business including Hall of Fame jockey Earlie Fires, the victory was hard-won for both him and his horse.
Archarcharch moved securely into the Kentucky Derby field thanks to the winner’s share of $600,000 pushing his overall earnings to $832,744 from a 3-for-6 record. All three wins have come in stakes and he has never finished out of the money.
The Factor faded to seventh and for the second straight week, a major Kentucky Derby favorite faltered after Uncle Mo took third in the Wood Memorial last Saturday in New York.
“I think he tried to take him out and teach him something today, but he wasn’t comfortable with that,” said trainer Bob Baffert. “I think he may have displaced (his palate). Martin really had to snatch him in the first turn. He goes with them, they’re going to go in 21. With those two horses (J P’s Gusto and Dance City) it was just ridiculous.”
There were 62,634 fans on hand for the traditional closing day at Oaklawn Park. Fires indicated Archarcharch would spend a couple more days in Hot Springs before shipping to Louisville to prepare for the “Run for the Roses” on May 7.