The $1 million 2021 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park is the final prep race for the Kentucky Derby on May 1 and it did not go to plan for the 3/10 favorite Concert Tour on Saturday (April 10). After a high-speed duel with Caddo River on the pace, he was unable to respond to the late surge of Steve Asmussen’s Super Stock, a 12/1 shot, in the stretch and finished third beaten almost three lengths.
Bob Baffert’s Concert Tour went into the grade 1 race unbeaten and was the heavy favorite for a good reason. He was last seen a month ago at this track defeating three of the same rivals in the grade 2 Rebel Stakes by over four lengths with his ears pricked. He had been eased down close to the wire by Joel Rosario. That was run over a mile and half a furlong, 110 yards less than the Arkansas Derby.
So what went wrong? In the Rebel Stakes, Concert Tour led from flag fall and was able to set less testing fractions, closely pursued by Brad Cox’s Caddo River who was reined back by Florent Geroux at times allowing him a clear lead. In the Arkansas Derby it was Caddo River, the second favorite at 3/1, who took the lead from stall two going into the first bend and raced on the rail under Geroux. Cox and co had obviously planned to make the most of the low draw and lead at whatever pace was necessary to do so. Stalking Concert Tour in the Rebel had not worked so new tactics were worth a try.
Concert Tour was consequently relegated to the position of chief pursuer on Caddo River’s flank from gate five. Steve Asmussen’s Super Stock started from the inside gate and saved ground close behind the leading pair in third. He settled well and raced more relaxed than either of the leading pair under Ricardo Santana.
The half mile was run in a scorching 46.51, a second faster than the Rebel time of 47.53, and was at its hottest in the first quarter. The speed was maintained until the final quarter of a mile when it proved unsustainable and the mile was completed in 1.37.64, a second slower than the Rebel that was run in 1.36.65.
In the final furlong Santana asked Super Stock to close and, when he got the desired response, he decided not to utilize the very feasible gap that had appeared between Concert Tour and Caddo River. It was the most direct route to the lead. Instead, he slightly checked his colt’s momentum when choosing to angle him out wide to race around them. Fortunately Super Stock forgave the extreme steering and rallied on finding a clear path, digging deep to pass the leading duo to win by two and a half lengths. Caddo River had been headed by Concert Tour in the stretch but bravely kept on to take second, beating his long-time rival by a head.
Peter Miller’s Get Her Number, a 25/1 shot, had been ridden super patiently by Francisco Arrieta at the back of the pack and closed to finish fourth, half a length behind Concert Tour. Last Samurai, Dallas Stewart’s 49/1 chance took fifth, beaten nearly 14 lengths after chasing the leading group under Jon Kenton Court.
Steve Asmussen was delighted by Super Stock’s victory, especially as this son of Dialed In is owned by his father Keith in partnership with Erv Woolsey. Bred by Pedro and P J Gonzalez out of the Closing Argument mare, Super Girlie, they bought him for just $70,000 as a yearling at Keeneland. Both Asmussen’s parents were at the track to enjoy Super Stock’s victory making it an incredibly special family-oriented occasion that Steve said he would never forget.
Super Stock is particularly special to the Asmussens as he was ridden by Steve’s son Keith in his first three starts and he guided him to his maiden win. The seniors of the family feel blessed to have a horse that has showcased both their son’s ability as a trainer and their grandson’s talents as a jockey so well on the racetrack. Fortunately, Covid restrictions did not prevent them from witnessing his victory in person at the highest level, making it a dream experience for the family.
Super Stock went into the Arkansas Derby after outrunning his odds of 41/1 to finish fourth, beaten six and a half lengths by Concert Tour in the Rebel. He had strong claims of being a very decent colt as he had also taken third behind Essential Quality in the grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Cup Futurity at Keeneland as a juvenile.
Baffert’s second string Hozier, the Rebel runner-up, was also ridden patiently by Martin Garcia in the Arkansas Derby but weakened in the final quarter mile and completed the finishing order beaten 20 lengths. Baffert said he was more disappointed by Hozier’s performance than Concert Tour’s defeat.
Concert Tour’s colors have been lowered and his position in the Kentucky Derby betting market has dropped too. Baffert suspects a physical problem and has suggested that he may not line up. Brad Cox’s Essential Quality, the unbeaten son of Tapit owned by Godolphin is now a clear favorite.
Super Stock may well be progressive but he definitely benefitted from racing calmly behind fairly suicidal fractions. He has reportedly come out of the race in great shape and has the Kentucky Derby on his agenda next if he continues to show signs of well-being. He deserves his place in the line-up but his position in the Kentucky Derby betting at around 10/1 seems representative of his chances, well below those of 3/1 shot Essential Quality.