HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - The last few years, the Arkansas Derby has been a tuneup for serious Kentucky Derby contenders. This year, it's more of a proving ground. Curlin, the favorite, has raced twice.
"There's a lot of question marks surrounding him," said Steve Asmussen, Curlin's trainer. "But I don't think his talent is one of them."
Curlin is the early 7-5 favorite for today's 11/8-mile race, the last of Oaklawn Park's three Kentucky Derby preps. Deadly Dealer, trained by Todd Pletcher, is at 4-1 on the morning line -- and he has only raced three times.
It's been a tough year for favorites in Oaklawn's big 3-year-old races. Hard Spun finished fourth as a 1-2 shot in the Southwest on Feb. 19 for what is his only loss. Flying First Class was the choice in the Rebel on March 17, but he finished eighth.
Robby Albarado will ride Curlin for the second straight race. Deadly Dealer has won two straight starts, but the $1 million race this weekend will be his first try at two turns. He'll have the outside post position in the 10-horse race, with John Velazquez aboard.
Pletcher says he expects Deadly Dealer to be on the lead, but nobody can be sure how the horse will handle the distance.Tonight
Where: Oaklawn Park