Horse Racing

2024 Arkansas Derby Betting Odds and Contenders Preview

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2024 Arkansas Derby Betting Odds and Contenders Preview

The final race of Oaklawn’s series of Road to the Kentucky Derby preps happens Saturday, March 30: the Arkansas Derby! The purse is one of the best of the year for any race: $1.5 million, up from $1.25 million last year. The race covers 1 ⅛ miles on the dirt, and 10 horses will line up at the gate.

In addition to the seven-figure purse, the Arkansas Derby offers 100-50-25-15-10 Road to the Kentucky Derby points to the top five finishers. This guarantees the winner a place at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. Second place is also likely to secure a spot, and other horses can also make the Derby if they have run well in other prep races.

The Arkansas Derby is the final prep race in Oaklawn’s series of four prep races. It began with the Smarty Jones, then continued through the Southwest (G3) and the Rebel Stakes (G2). The Arkansas Derby has produced three Kentucky Derby winners: Sunny’s Halo (1983), Smarty Jones (2004), and Triple Crown hero American Pharoah (2015). 2022 winner Cyberknife went on to win the Haskell (G1), and 2023 winner Angel of Empire finished third as the Kentucky Derby favorite.

Arkansas Derby 2024 Information

  • Race Date: Saturday, March 30, 2024
  • Track: Oaklawn
  • Post Time: 6:47 p.m. Central Standard Time
  • Distance: 1 1/8 miles
  • Age/Sex: three-year-olds
  • Where to Watch: FanDuel TV, Fox Sports 2
  • Where to Bet: and FanDuel Racing

Arkansas Derby Odds

These are the entrants for the 2024 Arkansas Derby, including post positions, trainers, jockeys, and morning-line odds for each horse.

1Will Take ItEddie Milligan, Jr.Francisco Arrieta50-1
2TimberlakeBrad CoxFlavien Prat9-5
3DimaticSteve AsmussenCristian Torres20-1
4Time for TruthRon MoquettRafael Bejarano20-1
5Liberal ArtsRobert MedinaTyler Gaffalione15-1
6Informed PatriotSteve AsmussenRicardo Santana, Jr.30-1
7MuthBob BaffertJuan Hernandez8-5
View Full Table

Arkansas Derby Prep Results

Half of the field comes out of other Kentucky Derby points races at Oaklawn. Three runners come out of the Rebel on February 24, led by strong-looking winner Timberlake. Fifth-place Dimatic and seventh-place Just Steel also seek to get back on track in the Arkansas Derby. A pair of runners last raced in the Southwest: Mystik Dan was the runaway winner, while Liberal Arts chased on for third.

The only other horse to come out of a Kentucky Derby points race is Informed Patriot, who was most recently fifth behind Stronghold in the Sunland Park Derby (G3). Muth also comes out of a victory in a graded-stakes race, but that was the San Vicente (G2) at only seven furlongs at Santa Anita, and no sprints during the three-year-old year award points toward the Kentucky Derby. However, with Muth being trained by Bob Baffert, Kentucky Derby points are moot since Baffert trainees are ineligible.

The other three runners come out of non-stakes engagements, all at 1 1/16 miles at Oaklawn. Two came out of allowance company. Time for Truth stalked and pounced to win an allowance-optional claimer for non-winners of two races lifetime on March 2. Imperial Gun rallied from last to finish fourth in a one-other-than on February 24, flattening out late. Will Take It, the lone maiden in the field, tracked the pace and was just nosed out in a maiden special weight on February 24.

Arkansas Derby Contenders

These are the contenders in the 2024 Arkansas Derby, organized by post position:

Will Take It: The step up in trip should suit, but the odds are stacked against him for several reasons. He took a big step up last out, though that came against maiden company; he still didn’t win, and he needs another big step up to contend in this Kentucky Derby prep. He also has to handle an inner post in a big field.

Timberlake: One of the two marquee contenders, he is a Grade 1 winner at age two and a last-out winner of the Rebel over the local course. This Brad Cox trainee has every right to take a step forward second off the lay, and his juvenile form suggests that there is indeed more in the tank. He has also navigated near-inside draws before, and is tactical enough to work out a smart trip. The jockey change is a question, but given that last-out rider Cristian Torres moves to a more marginal runner, it looks like a choice to work with a rider more proven in big races like the Kentucky Derby.

Dimatic: He broke his maiden over the slop at Oaklawn two back, and even though he did a bit better next out from a speed perspective in the Rebel, he was still no match for the better company, finishing a flat fifth. He won’t get a pace collapse in this, and even though his pedigree on paper has upside for the distance, he has yet to prove more ground is what he wants in practice.

Time for Truth: He impressed in his debut maiden win sprinting at Oaklawn, and two starts later he stalked and pounced to win at two turns. That shows a real liking for fast Oaklawn dirt, and truly tactical speed. Regular rider Rafael Bejarano returns to the irons, and in a race without a huge amount of gas, he may be able to work out the right trip at an appealing price.

Liberal Arts: Third in a muddy edition of the Southwest in his only sophomore start, he has some upside making his second start of the year, but also has some tables to turn on Mystik Dan. He isn’t bad on a fast track, though—he broke his maiden sprinting over fast Ellis dirt and was beaten only two lengths in the Iroquois (G3) over fast footing at Churchill Downs—and he also gets a change back to Tyler Gaffalione, who rode him more tactically in their one race together last year.

Informed Patriot: Though trainer Steve Asmussen has plenty of big-race experience, he’ll need to move Informed Patriot forward quickly to make him competitive in this spot. His tactical speed is a plus, he has gotten minor shares of points in all three Kentucky Derby preps he has tried, and perhaps he is best at Oaklawn. But, he has yet to prove he wants this kind of distance and he faces the deepest field he has ever seen.

Muth: Call this his audition for the Preakness Stakes, given that this Bob Baffert trainee cannot go to the Kentucky Derby. He is one of the leading West Coast sophomores, and though he comes off a smart sprint win, he is also a Grade 1 winner, going two turns, in the American Pharoah last year. With real California speed from a trainer who has a history of sending live runners to Arkansas, he shapes as a real contender.

Just Steel: Unsurprisingly for a D. Wayne Lukas trainee, he is the most experienced runner in the field: he makes his 11th start in the Arkansas Derby. He ran second in both the Smarty Jones and the Southwest. However, he wasn’t quite himself in the Rebel: he wasn’t close to the pace, he hung wide around the turns, and came up empty. This is a smaller field, though, so he may be able to get his usual trip and find the gimmicks again at a price.

Mystik Dan: He won the Southwest in dazzling fashion; now his challenge is to replicate that performance over a dry track against a better field. If he can, he can give the Muth and Timberlake types a run for their money. That Southwest effort was particularly impressive in that he was able to rally into a pace that wasn’t particularly fast. The positive is that it gives him a shot when the pace won’t be hot in this, either. But, he’ll be chasing down better company. So, just make sure to get a square price before diving in.

Imperial Gun: One of just two who will make their stakes debut in the Arkansas Derby, he romped in a two-turn maiden special weight at Oaklawn in December but came up flat as the odds-on favorite in a first-level allowance last month. Perhaps he will do better if he can get closer to the pace than he did last time, but the outside post will not help him and he does need a major step up to keep pace with the big guns.

Arkansas Derby Past Winners Past Performances

Among the 11 Arkansas Derby winners in the last 10 years (there were two divisions in 2020), the Rebel has reigned supreme as a prep race. Six of those 11 winners came straight out of the Rebel. American Pharoah (2015), Magnum Moon (2018), Omaha Beach (2019), and Nadal (2020) won it, while Creator (2016) was third and Super Stock (2021) was fourth.

Two others came out of points races at other tracks. Classic Empire (2017) was second in the Holy Bull (G2), while Angel of Empire (2023) shipped to Arkansas out of a victory in the Risen Star (G2). The other three recent winners came out of allowance races. Cyberknife (2022) came out of an allowance win at Fair Grounds, and Danza (2014) was third in an allowance at Gulfstream, though both had previous graded experience. Charlatan (2020), who came out of a Santa Anita allowance win, was the only winner in the last ten years who made his graded debut in the Arkansas Derby.

Arkansas Derby Undercard

The Arkansas Derby is the 12th of 13 races on Saturday’s massive Oaklawn racing program. The card features a 100-point Road to the Kentucky Oaks prep, the $750,000 Fantasy (G3), as well as the $500,000 Oaklawn Mile (G3) for older dirt milers and the $250,000 Matron for older female dirt sprinters.

With six- and seven-figure purses all day long, not just in Arkansas but also in major races like the Florida Derby (G1) and the Dubai World Cup (G1), Saturday is one of the biggest days of horse racing all around the world. Make your plans to watch and wager on the card through FanDuel and TVG!

Oaklawn Park History

Back in 1905, the Hot Springs Mayor declared a half-day holiday for the opening of Oaklawn Park, with over 3,000 people attending the track on its first day of racing. The holiday heralded the beginning of a tradition that has lasted for over a century!

Due to political issues, no racing took place at Oaklawn between 1907 and 1916, but after a sustained period of action, the now-famous Arkansas Derby was inaugurated in 1936 with a purse of $5,000 offered to entrants.

By 1952, Oaklawn could boast daily attendances of almost 8,000 people and an average daily handle of well over $400,000, figures which rose by the turn of the decade to 10,000 and $500,000, respectively, with the Arkansas Derby purse increasing to $50,000 by 1965.

The track continued to go from strength to strength, and during a 50-day meeting in 1970, an average of 11,000 people were attending daily, with over $43,000,000 wagered over the course of the meet.

In the mid-70s, Oaklawn gave birth to the Racing Festival of the South, with pari-mutuel wagering amounting to a cool $80,000,000 that season, and by the 80s, over a quarter of a million people were attending the festival each year. By then, the purse for the Arkansas Derby was up at $500,000, and a new single-day attendance record was set with 71,000 showing up to see Rampage win the big race in 1986.

Ten years later, Arkansas Derby day saw a total handle of over $10.5 million, and by the turn of the millennium, Oaklawn was still seeing increases in attendance and wagering, meaning the track stands as one of the best in the country at present.

Arkansas Derby FAQ

Q: When is the Arkansas Derby?

A: The 2024 Arkansas Derby will be run Saturday, March 30 at 6:47 p.m. Central Daylight Time. It is the 12th of 13 races on the day.

Q: Where is the Arkansas Derby?

A: It takes place at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas

Q: Which trainer has the most wins in the Arkansas Derby?

A: Todd Pletcher leads all trainers with five winners, most recently in 2018 with Magnum Moon. He does not have an entrant in 2024. Steve Asmussen and Bob Baffert, with four Arkansas Derby wins each, lead all trainers with horses running this year. Asmussen can tie Pletcher if either Informed Patriot or Imperial Gun wins. Baffert can tie Pletcher if Muth wins.

Q: Who is the favorite for the 2024 Arkansas Derby?

A: Muth, perhaps the best sophomore based in California, is the 8-5 morning-line favorite for the Arkansas Derby as he ships east for the first time. However, Timberlake (9-5) is already a Grade 1 winner and comes off a smart win in the Rebel, and Mystik Dan (5-2) won the Southwest in an absolute romp. Muth probably goes off favored due to the Baffert factor, but take notice if either one of these horses actually battles Muth for favorite status.

Q: Who is the best Arkansas Derby jockey?

A: Mike Smith and Pat Day lead all riders with three wins each, though Smith (the only one of these who still rides) will not contest the 2024 edition. Rafael Bejarano and Ricardo Santana are both two-time winners of this race. Bejarano can tie the record if Time for Truth wins, while Santana can tie it if Informed Patriot scores.

Q: Who won the 2023 Arkansas Derby?

A: Angel of Empire won the 2023 Arkansas Derby for trainer Brad Cox and jockey Flavien Prat. Cox and Prat reunite in 2024 with Timberlake

This year’s Kentucky Derby Prep Races have already been filled with excitement and anticipation as horses compete for a coveted spot in the 150th Kentucky Derby. Now, FanDuel customers can join the action with this No Sweat Bet Up to $10! See the promotions page for more information.

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