News and STORIES

Arkansas Derby Split into Two Divisions

Author: Clint Goodman
Published: Monday April 27, 2020
Oaklawn Park has announced that the Arkansas Derby (G1) on May 2 will be split into two divisions. Each division will award 170 points toward a spot in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) at Churchill Downs Sept. 5. 

According to Oaklawn officials last week, they were trying to get to 22 horses to split the field for the 1 1/8-mile event for 3-year-olds. Now, there will be two fields of 11 horses. 

Race Delays

Each division of the race will have a $500,000 purse, and the points awarded for the Kentucky Derby will be on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top four finishers. 

The Arkansas Derby was originally set to run on April 11 before being delayed to May 2. That decision was made after Churchill Downs postponed the Kentucky Derby to Sept. 5 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Oaklawn is now one of the few tracks still running live racing without spectators. 

"Because of our national crisis, we and the entire world of sports are in uncharted waters requiring unprecedented actions. We're trying to make the best of a very, very difficult situation," Oaklawn president Louis Cella said. 

"On the one hand, it is the worst of times to be racing without fans in our grandstand. On the other, we have a large number of exceptional 3-year-olds wanting to run in our Arkansas Derby. We simply did not want to see anyone lose that opportunity."

2019 Rebel and 2012 Southwest Stakes

Oaklawn split the Rebel Stakes (G2) into two divisions in 2019, with each carrying a $750,000 purse. That came at a time when racing was stopped at Santa Anita Park due to equine fatalities. The Rebel, originally worth 85 points, ended up awarding 63.75 in each division. 

The Southwest Stakes (G3) was also split into two divisions in 2012 after 21 horses entered the race. The original purse of $250,000 was still present in both divisions. 

"While we are always respectful of the time-honored traditions of the Kentucky Derby, we're in the midst of an unprecedented year," Churchill Downs president Kevin Flanery said. "We recognize that there are numerous 3-year-olds currently in training with limited racing opportunities, and our prominent partner Oaklawn Park is in a unique and important position to immediately fill a void for horsemen. 

"An extension of the Road to the Kentucky Derby will continue to evolve in the weeks ahead. Our Churchill Downs team is united in our commitment to holding the very best Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5, and it will certainly be one of the most memorable of our lifetimes."

On March 20, Oaklawn announced that the Arkansas Derby purse, originally set at $1 million, would be reduced to $750,000. This decision came after the casino closed on March 16 due to the pandemic, and the purse was reduced even more after the split. 

The Fields

The first division of the Arkansas Derby is scheduled as Race 11 on the card. The field will include the undefeated Charlatan, Runhappy Hopeful Stakes (G1) winner and Rebel Stakes third Basin, and grade-1 placed colts Gouverneur Morris and Anneau d'Or. Charlatan will break from the rail, while Basin will break from the outside. 

The second division is set to be Race 13 on the card, with the field including champion 2-year-old male Storm the Court, Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner King Guillermo, Rebel winner Nadad, Southwest victor Silver Prospector, Oaklawn Stakes second-place finisher Silver Prospector, and Wells Bayou, winner of the Louisiana Derby (G2).