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.
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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