OPINION — Like It Is

Racing didn’t need a Baffert win Saturday

With weather that can only come from heaven, a huge crowd gathered at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort for the meet's premier day of racing.

On a day that had NCAA Tournament Elite Eight as a closer, Oaklawn featured four stakes race that finished with the Grade I Arkansas Derby that had a total purse of $1.5 million.

It was a great day of racing, but thoroughbred racing got something it didn't really need when Muth got the win.

Muth, a Bob Baffert-trained shipper from California, won in a convincing effort, holding off all challengers. But the winner cannot collect the points toward the Kentucky Derby because Baffert is finishing a suspension by Churchill Downs.

Honestly, the Churchill brass made their point when they suspended him after the 2021 Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, had a drug violation, but it seems like Baffert has served enough time.

Muth, who now has four wins and two places in six starts, made his move going into the head of the stretch and took up a three-length lead with a furlong to go.

Just Steel, trained by legendary D. Wayne Lukas, made a run, but no one was going to catch Muth on this day. Just Steel was second and Mystik Dan, winner of the Southwest Stakes, was third.

Down in Miami, the expected happened in the Florida Derby when last year's Eclipse Award winner and 2-year-old champion Fierceness, who won the Breeder's Cup for juvenile colts, won easily and will be the undisputed favorite going into the Kentucky Derby.

Doesn't mean he'll win it, but as of now Muth can't challenge him in the Kentucky Derby because Baffert didn't reassign him to another trainer.

Muth and Fierceness faced off last year in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the Arkansas Derby winner was second by more than six lengths.

Most likely, barring injury, their next meeting will against be in the Breeders' Cup.

Bettors were probably kicking themselves after The Matron, a $250,000 Stakes race for fillies and mares 4-years old and up, when American Band landed in the winner's circle and paid $57 to win.

American Band's past seven races were at Oaklawn dating back to January 2023 and she is a horse for the course as she recorded her sixth win on the Hot Springs track yesterday. She placed in her other two outings.

Granted the 5-year-old ran in a claiming race last December, but after that win she won an allowance race earlier this month.

Frosted Grace won the Oaklawn Mile, which was the first of the four stakes win.

Thorpedo Anna, who had not raced since October of last year, probably ran herself into the Kentucky Oaks with an impressive win in the $750,000 Fantasy Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. had the Churchill Downs shipper stalking for six furlongs and when he asked her to run, she was by far the best, putting away early leader Recharge and then just pulling away from the field.

Hernandez and Thorpedo Anna may have had some racing luck, although it didn't look like it really mattered. My Mane Squeeze was in the No. 1 hole and started acting up, forcing jockey Flavian Prat to dismount her twice.

All the horses but Thorpedo Anna were already in the gate when Prat had to escape. The eventual winner loaded about three minutes after all the other horses were confined to the gate and wondering what was going on.

Thorpedo Anna is lightly raced but trainer Kenneth McPeek is one of the best. She has won three of four races and the $40,000 2-year-old purchase has now won almost $700,000.

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