Triple Crown: Reincarnate favored in Arkansas Derby

Southern California-based Reincarnate is the 5-2 program favorite for the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles Saturday at Oaklawn.

Probable post time for the Arkansas Derby, the 12th of 13 races, is 6:24 p.m. (Central). Racing begins at 12:15 p.m. The Arkansas Derby will offer 200 points to the top five finishers (100-40-30-20-10, respectively) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. It is Oaklawn’s fourth and final Kentucky Derby points race.

The projected 11-horse Arkansas Derby field from the rail out: Bourbon Bash, Reylu Gutierrez to ride, 119 pounds, 15-1 on the morning line; Interlock Empire, David Cabrera, 119, 20-1; Harlocap, Ricardo Santana Jr., 119, 15-1; Two Eagles River, Nik Juarez, 119, 10-1; Airtime, Cristian Torres, 119, 15-1; Angel of Empire, Flavien Prat, 122, 9-2; Rocket Can, Junior Alvarado, 122, 4-1; Reincarnate, John Velazquez, 122, 5-2; King Russell, Rafael Bejarano, 119, 30-1; Red Route One, Tyler Gaffalione, 119, 3-1; and Kolomio, James Graham, 119, 30-1.

“How should I put it?” said Tim Yakteen, who trains Reincarnate. “Nothing against the morning line oddsmaker, but it’s nice to be made a favorite because that means that you do have a legitimate shot. You always like that.”

Reincarnate returns to Oaklawn after finishing a troubled third in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 25. The Rebel, Oaklawn’s third Kentucky Derby points race, marked Reincarnate’s first start for Yakteen.

Reincarnate, a son of champion Good Magic, had made his first five career starts for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. The colt was transferred to Yakteen shortly before the Rebel, owing to Baffert trainees being ineligible for Kentucky Derby qualifying points. Churchill Downs suspended Baffert for two years after his 2021 Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, was disqualified because of a medication violation.

Reincarnate before the Rebel Stakes. Photo by Coady Photography.

Reincarnate endured an eventful trip in the Rebel and was beaten 2 ½ lengths by Confidence Game after losing valuable position when shuffled back shortly after the start and having to check approaching the eighth pole under Velazquez. Reincarnate trailed by 11 lengths after the opening quarter – he had been on the early lead throughout most of his career – and was shut off moving toward the leaders in midstretch.

“We didn’t have the best of luck last time,” said Yakteen, a former Baffert assistant. “Hopefully, we’ll get a clean break away from there and Johnny will play the break and put himself where he feels the horse is going to be most comfortable. And that’s where I would like to see the horse, is where Johnny feels the horse is most comfortable. I’d like to have us make the decision and not have that decision be made for us. I think that is sort of what took place the last time. I think the horse has shown versatility in his form, so, hopefully, we’ll be able to play it how the break comes up. Obviously, we’d like to be closer to the pace than necessarily be completely out of it like we were the last time.”

Reincarnate, then with Baffert, was a front-running neck winner of the $100,000 Sham Stakes (G3) at 1 mile Jan. 8 at Santa Anita,

Another logical contender is the Pennsylvania-bred Angel of Empire, a rallying winner of the Grade 2 Risen Star last time out at the Fair Grounds.

Trained by Brad Cox, Angel of Empire, a son of 2017 Arkansas Derby winner Classic Empire, finished second behind stablemate Victory Formation in the $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at 1 mile Jan. 1 at Oaklawn. The Smarty Jones was Oaklawn’s first Kentucky Derby points race.

“Doing great,” said Cox, who turned 43 Thursday. “Been down at the Fair Grounds working steady. Physically, he’s moving great. I think he loves a mile and an eighth. He showed that the last time in the Risen Star. The plan since the Smarty Jones was to give him an opportunity at a mile and an eighth in February. Here we are go. So, I think he fits very well here. It’s a solid group of horses.”