HomeThe ShuffleArkansas Derby Replaces Kentucky Derby As May’s Big Race

Arkansas Derby Replaces Kentucky Derby As May’s Big Race

No Kentucky Derby? No problem. The Arkansas Derby has come running to the rescue. Catch all the action from Oaklawn Park on Saturday, May 2. Post time is 6:29 p.m. ET.

This year marks the first time since 1945 that the Kentucky Derby won’t go off as planned on the first Saturday in May. Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the famed Run for the Roses has been pushed back to September 5.

But Oaklawn Park—or Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, in Hot Springs, Arkansas—has moved in to fill the void. Its Arkansas Derby, originally slated for April 11, will run this Saturday, May 2.

Not surprisingly in this long sports drought, excitement about the race has exploded. Six days before the event, Oaklawn expanded it to two divisions, because the horses that were to compete in Kentucky Derby preps—like the Santa Anita Derby and the Bluegrass Stakes—had nowhere to run when those races were postponed or cancelled.

A total of 22 horses will be competing in the two divisions of the Arkansas Derby. Each division is worth $500,000, and the winners from both will earn Kentucky Derby qualifying points.

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The first division has a post time of 6:29 p.m. ET. The second is set to begin at 7:43 p.m. In between these two races is the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap, creating an exciting three-race package.

The expanded Arkansas Derby field ensured that Nadal and Charlatan (l.)— unbeaten horses connected with Hall-of-Fame trainer Bob Baffert—could be entered.

Other horses gaining attention include Louisiana Derby winner Wells Bayou, Tampa Bay Derby champion King Guillermo, and Storm the Count, 2019’s champion two-year-old colt.

First post time on Oaklawn’s 14-race closing Saturday card is 1 p.m. ET.

While the Arkansas Derby will be the headline, here are some contenders for the Oaklawn Handicap:

  • Freeze
  • Warrior’s Charge
  • Combatant
  • Tacitus
  • By My Standards
  • Improbable

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Tracks Extend Seasons

This year, opportunistic track officials are working to extend their seasons, and that means more opportunities for gamblers.

Both Tampa Bay Downs and Fonner Park have gained approval to extend their racing seasons through May.

It’s a bouquet for the bettors.

  • Tampa Bay Park in Tampa Bay, Florida, which was due to close this Sunday, will continue through May 30. The track plans to run Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays during the last four weeks of May.
  • Fonner Park in Grand Island, Nebraska, confirms that the Nebraska State Racing Commission granted approval for an additional 12 days of racing in May to conduct a Second Season. It runs May 4 to May 31, Mondays to Wednesdays, starting at 5 p.m. ET.

So the Sport of Kings remains afloat while most other sports have been shut down.

The events are run without spectators. But the fact they can be conducted at all is a testament to the popularity of online gambling, especially sports betting.

Arkansas Derby

Location: Oaklawn Park, Hot Springs, Arkansas
Established: 1936
Distance: 1 1/8 miles (9 furlongs)
Track Type: Left-Handed Dirt
Age Qualifications: Three-year-olds
Status: Grade 1
2020 Purse: $1 million

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Dave Bontempo, a multiple award-winning writer and broadcaster, has covered sports for the Associated Press, ESPN, HBO and Showtime and called boxing matches on every major network. Dave is a winner of the Sam Taub Award for broadcast excellence given by the Boxing Writers Association of America, and is a member of both the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame and the Atlantic City International Boxing Hall of Fame. He writes regularly for iGamingPlayer.com and Global Gaming Business magazine.

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