Ten Things You Should Know: Arkansas Derby
By Kevin Martin, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor
1) The Arkansas Derby is a Grade 1 race restricted to 3-year-olds held at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It is run at a distance of 1 1/8 miles. This year’s edition is part of the Kentucky Derby qualifying system with points being awarded to the top four finishers.
2) The race was run for the first time in 1936. The current purse is $1 million. In 2004, a $5 million bonus was offered to any colt to sweep the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn and go on to win the Kentucky Derby. Smarty Jones completed that trifecta the same year.
3) It has been a graded stake since the establishment of the American Graded Stakes system in 1973. It was upgraded to a Grade 1 in 2009, a long overdue promotion in the eyes of many racing pundits.
4) Six starters from the Arkansas Derby have won the Kentucky Derby. American Pharoah (2015), Smarty Jones (2004) and Sunny Halo (1983) won the Arkansas and Kentucky Derbies. Super Saver (2010), Grindstone (1996) and Lil E Tee (1992) finished second in Arkansas before winning at Churchill. American Pharoah is the first Triple Crown winner to run in the Arkansas Derby.
6) Arkansas Derby winners Victory Gallop (1998) and Temperance Hill (1980) went on to win the Belmont Stakes. Curlin (2007), Pine Bluff (1992), Tank’s Prospect (1985), and Elocutionist (1976) won the Preakness Stakes. 2012 Arkansas Derby winner Bodemeister ran 2nd in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness behind I’ll Have Another.
7) In 1984, the filly Althea set the stakes record in winning the Arkansas Derby but finished a disappointing 19th in the Kentucky Derby. Her stakes record time of 1:46.80 still stands.
9) In 1979 Golden Act won the Arkansas Derby. He finished second to Spectacular Bid in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. In the shocking upset of Spectacular Bid in the Belmont Stakes, Golden Act finished second to upset winner Coastal. Spectacular Bid finished third in his failed attempt to complete the Triple Crown.
10) In 1998 Favorite Trick — the 1997 2-year-old champion — finished third and Victory Gallop finished first. Victory Gallop would upset Real Quiet’s Triple Crown try in the 1998 Belmont Stakes.