Bob Baffert knows well how to train a horse to win at Oaklawn Park.
The Hall of Fame trainer hopes to once again capture an important race at the park today when he sends out favorite War Academy in the $1 million Arkansas Derby.
A Baffert-trained colt, Bodemeister, won the Kentucky Derby prep race last year, and the Californian guided horses to three consecutive wins at Oaklawn’s Rebel Stakes before D. Wayne Lukas’ Will Take Charge snapped that streak in March.
War Academy, who has only had three starts this year, is one of two Baffert horses in today’s race and both are among the top picks. War Academy was made a 2-1 favorite after drawing the second post on Wednesday, and Den’s Legacy is at 6-1 from the fifth post.
The favorite status for War Academy, who will be ridden by Mike Smith, comes despite the limited running. The colt has run exclusively in California so far, with wins in two of his three races – including his last time out at Santa Anita.
“War Academy certainly is getting a lot of buzz,” assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes said. “He’s a Giant’s Causeway colt, he’s a good looking colt, and he’s hopefully going in the right direction now.
“We couldn’t be happier with him, but he’s untested. We’ll find out on Saturday.”
The winner of the 1⅛-mile race will earn 100 points in the race for a spot in the Kentucky Derby, while the place and show horses will earn 40 and 20, respectively.
Oxbow, who was edged by Will Take Charge at March’s Rebel Stakes, drew the far outside No. 10 post and was made a 5-2 choice behind War Academy.
The Lukas-trained Oxbow, owned by Calumet Farm and a son of Awesome Again and Tizamazing, broke to the lead at the turn for home at the Rebel before being edged by his stablemate Will Take Charge. Lukas said after the Rebel that he wouldn’t race the two against each other again before the Kentucky Derby.
Overanalyze is the third choice at 4-1 and will be ridden for the first time by jockey Rafael Bejarano.
The Blue Grass Stakes, at Keeneland, is also scheduled for today.
Uncaptured is the early favorite at 7-2 for the $750,000 race.
The colt, who will break from the No. 7 post, was second to Black Onyx in March’s Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park and has six wins in eight starts.
Rydilluc and Java’s War, who drew the 13th and fourth positions respectively, are both 4-1.
Dogwood Stable’s Palace Malice drew the fifth post and is 8-1. The colt was seventh in the Louisiana Derby in his last start.