REINCARNATE FAVORED IN SATURDAY’S ARKANSAS DERBY
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jennifer Hoyt, Director of Racing
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Photo credit: Coady Photography
REINCARNATE FAVORED IN SATURDAY’S ARKANSAS DERBY
HOT SPRINGS, AR (Thursday, March 30, 2023) – Southern California-based Reincarnate is the 5-2 program favorite for the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles Saturday at Oaklawn.
Probable post time for the Arkansas Derby, the 12th of 13 races, is 6:24 p.m. (Central). Racing begins at 12:15 p.m. The Arkansas Derby will offer 200 points to the top five finishers (100-40-30-20-10, respectively) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. It is Oaklawn’s fourth and final Kentucky Derby points race.
The projected 11-horse Arkansas Derby field from the rail out: Bourbon Bash, Reylu Gutierrez to ride, 119 pounds, 15-1 on the morning line; Interlock Empire, David Cabrera, 119, 20-1; Harlocap, Ricardo Santana Jr., 119, 15-1; Two Eagles River, Nik Juarez, 119, 10-1; Airtime, Cristian Torres, 119, 15-1; Angel of Empire, Flavien Prat, 122, 9-2; Rocket Can, Junior Alvarado, 122, 4-1; Reincarnate, John Velazquez, 122, 5-2; King Russell, Rafael Bejarano, 119, 30-1; Red Route One, Tyler Gaffalione, 119, 3-1; and Kolomio, James Graham, 119, 30-1.
“How should I put it?” said Tim Yakteen, who trains Reincarnate. “Nothing against the morning line oddsmaker, but it’s nice to be made a favorite because that means that you do have a legitimate shot. You always like that.”
Reincarnate returns to Oaklawn after finishing a troubled third in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 25. The Rebel, Oaklawn’s third Kentucky Derby points race, marked Reincarnate’s first start for Yakteen.
Reincarnate, a son of champion Good Magic, had made his first five career starts for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. The colt was transferred to Yakteen shortly before the Rebel, owing to Baffert trainees being ineligible for Kentucky Derby qualifying points. Churchill Downs suspended Baffert for two years after his 2021 Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, was disqualified because of a medication violation.
Reincarnate endured an eventful trip in the Rebel and was beaten 2 ½ lengths by Confidence Game after losing valuable position when shuffled back shortly after the start and having to check approaching the eighth pole under Velazquez. Reincarnate trailed by 11 lengths after the opening quarter – he had been on the early lead throughout most of his career – and was shut off moving toward the leaders in midstretch.
“We didn’t have the best of luck last time,” said Yakteen, a former Baffert assistant. “Hopefully, we’ll get a clean break away from there and Johnny will play the break and put himself where he feels the horse is going to be most comfortable. And that’s where I would like to see the horse, is where Johnny feels the horse is most comfortable. I’d like to have us make the decision and not have that decision be made for us. I think that is sort of what took place the last time. I think the horse has shown versatility in his form, so, hopefully, we’ll be able to play it how the break comes up. Obviously, we’d like to be closer to the pace than necessarily be completely out of it like we were the last time.”
Reincarnate, then with Baffert, was a front-running neck winner of the $100,000 Sham Stakes (G3) at 1 mile Jan. 8 at Santa Anita,
Late-running Red Route One opened his 3-year-old campaign with a runner-up finish behind unbeaten Arabian Knight in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 28 before finishing second in the Rebel for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
Asmussen considered Red Route One for $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) at 1 3/16 miles last Saturday at Fair Grounds, but opted to send Disarm and Shopper’s Revenge. Red Route One adds blinkers after falling far behind early in the Southwest and Rebel.
“We want him to stay a little closer early,” Asmussen said. “He has given himself too much to do by dropping out the back. With keeping him closer, will it jeopardize some of his late run? We’re about to find out.”
Asmussen will also start Harlocap, who exits a sixth in the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) at 1 1/8 miles Feb. 18 at Fair Grounds. Harlocap, who previously had been with Baffert on the West Coast, also passed the Louisiana Derby in favor of the Arkansas Derby.
“He ran for quite a ways here in the Risen Star,” Asmussen said. “I just feel he’s a forwardly placed horse, and Oaklawn has proven in the past to be more conducive to that style.”
Two-time Eclipse Award winning trainer Brad Cox won the 2022 Arkansas Derby with Cyberknife and is represented by Angel of Empire, who returns to Oaklawn after winning the Risen Star in his last start.
Angel of Empire, a son of 2017 Arkansas Derby winner Classic Empire, finished second behind stablemate Victory Formation in the $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at 1 mile Jan. 1 at Oaklawn. The Smarty Jones was Oaklawn’s first Kentucky Derby points race.
“Doing great,” said Cox, who turned 43 Thursday. “Been down at the Fair Grounds working steady. Physically, he’s moving great. I think he loves a mile and an eighth. He showed that the last time in the Risen Star. The plan since the Smarty Jones was to give him an opportunity at a mile and an eighth in February. Here we are go. So, I think he fits very well here. It’s a solid group of horses.”
Rocket Can won the $250,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G3) Feb. 4 and finished second behind champion Forte in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) March 4. Both 1 1/16-mile races were at Gulfstream Park.
Rocket Can is owned by prominent North Little Rock, Ark., businessman Frank Fletcher, who is seeking his first victory in the Arkansas Derby, a race he covets the most. Rocket Can’s trainer, Hall of Famer Bill Mott, is also seeking his first Arkansas Derby victory.
“He’s done well,” Mott said. “I think we’ve got some competition in the race that we need to respect and we’re coming off a couple of pretty good races. He’ll have to move forward again in order to win this.”
The speedy Two Eagles Rivers exits a sharp entry-level allowance victory at 1 mile Feb. 19 at Oaklawn for 2015 Oaklawn training champion Chris Hartman. The runner-up in that Feb. 19 race, Disarm, returned to finish second in the Louisiana Derby. Two Eagles River has logged four workouts since his victory, including a 5-furlong bullet (:59) March 14.
“He’s been working up a storm,” Hartman said.
Airtime will also be coming off a layoff for 2022-2023 Oaklawn training champion Robertino Diodoro, who claimed the son of American Freedom for $50,000 out of a 10 ¼-length victory Jan. 29 at Oaklawn. In his only start for Diodoro, Airtime was a 1 ¼-length entry-level allowance winner at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 18. The runner-up in that race, Shopper’s Revenge, returned to finish fourth in the Louisiana Derby.
“There doesn’t appear to be a ton of speed in the race,” Diodoro said. “Again, Cristian knows the horse and I think he’ll probably be laying a little bit closer. Definitely not on the lead because that’s not the plan, but laying a little bit closer.”
Bourbon Bash finished a troubled fifth in the Rebel for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who has given the mount to Gutierrez, the 2022-2023 Fair Grounds riding champion.
Interlock Empire and King Russell are exiting two-turn maiden special weight victories earlier in the Oaklawn meeting for trainers Kenny McPeek and Ron Moquett, respectively.