Arkansas Derby and Angel of Empire 2023 Prep Race Recap

Kentucky Derby prep race recap of the 2023 Arkansas Derby and winner Angel of Empire.
Kentucky Derby prep race recap of the 2023 Arkansas Derby and winner Angel of Empire. / Associated Press

The Championship Series races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby featured eight major prep races that awarded 100 points to the winner and a spot in the starting gate for the May 6 Kentucky Derby.

The Arkansas Derby on April 1 was won by Angel of Empire (9/2) by more than 4 lengths over King Russell and Reincarnate. Flavien Prat rode him for the first time and will be aboard Angel of Empire again in the Kentucky Derby for trainer Brad Cox.

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Angel of Empire Kentucky Derby Contender

Angel of Empire will be one of the main challengers behind the leading favorites Forte, Tapit Trice and Practical Move in the 2023 Kentucky Derby, according to FanDuel Racing odds. Angel of Empire finished second in the Jan. 1 Smarty Jones, and then the deep closer won the Risen Star at 13/1 odds in front of Derby runners Sun Thunder and Two Phil's. The Arkansas Derby win solidified Angel of Empire's standing as a contender in the Run for the Roses.

The top four finishers in the 1 1/8 mile Arkansas Derby all finished strongly with final 3/8 mile times less than 38 seconds. Angel of Empire came home in 36.86 seconds with a winning time of 1:49.68.

Nine of the last 11 Kentucky Derby winners and 19 of the last 25 finished the final three furlongs of their final prep race in less than 38 seconds.

The Arkansas Derby has been run all but one year since 1936 at Oaklawn Park in Hotsprings, Arkansas. Three horses have won both the Arkansas Derby and the Kentucky Derby. Smarty Jones (2004) and Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (2015) have pulled off the Derby double in the past 20 years.

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