By Dick Downey
The Downey Profile
Nadal, in the stronger of two divisions of the Arkansas Derby, won as the 9-10 favorite in a field of nine to run his record to four wins from four starts. Meanwhile, trainer Bob Baffert won both divisions of Oaklawn Park's marquee race after taking the first one with Charlatan.
When the gate opened, Wells Bayou crossed over from the far outside post to grab the early lead, which he took into the far turn with splits of 23.08, 46.21 and 1:09.85. Nadal, who took heavy pressure on the lead in both the San Vicente and Rebel Stakes, turned the tables by sitting outside the flank of Wells Bayou, with King Guillermo closest to those two.
Leaving the far turn, Nadal pounced, led into the stretch, hit the furlong marker in 1:35.63 with a length-and-a-half lead, briefly facing a challenge from King Guillermo before shaking that one off.
He crossed the finish line in 1:48.34, best by three lengths over King Guillermo. Finnick The Fierce ran third, another 1 1/2 lengths back at odds of 62-1, followed an additional 2 1/2 lengths by Farmington Road in fourth.
The remaining order of finish was Wells Bayou, Storm the Court, Silver Prospector, Code Runner and Taishan. Fast Enough and Saratogian were scratched.
Nadal rewarded his $2 backers with payoffs of $3.80 to win, $3.40 to place and $3.20 to show. He ran his record to four wins from four starts.
Nadal jumped to the head of the class in Kentucky Derby points. He snagged 100 and now has a total of 150. King Guillermo got 40 (total now 90), Finnick the Fierce pulled down his first 20 points, and Farmingon Road was awarded 10 (total now 15).
Nadal was bred in Kentucky by Sierra Farm. He's by Blame out of Ascending Angel, by Pulpit. After selling for $65,000 at Keeneland in September, 2018, he brought $700,000 at the OBS March 2019 sale. The winning owners are George Bolton, Arthur Hoyeau, Barry Lipman and Mark Mathiesen. Bolton said he got out of the house and traveled to Oaklawn after Baffert told him on Thursday it'd be worth the trip.
Winning trainer Bob Baffert, Nadal – “Very exciting day, to say the least. I thought both horses were going to run really well. And Nadal, he came out of that race (Rebel) … he's a tough horse. There's a lot to him and he's a cool customer and I could see he's getting better and better. I just told Rosario to just get him running away from there and if somebody just gets ridiculous, like I thought maybe Florent, he would probably try to get the lead, but don't be worried about this horse sitting off a horse and he handled it well. Down the backside, I just loved the way he was. I figured if he was good enough, he can win from there. We just didn't want to go 22 and empty out. It worked out perfectly. I just want to thank the Cella family and Oaklawn Park for the fantastic job. Just fortunate and happy that they were able to split it and give everybody a chance to get some Derby points."
Winning Jockey Joel Rosario, Nadal – “He looked good. Very good race. He sat off that horse and then took care of the rest. He’s a champ. It was the perfect trip. He broke well and took a little bit of time to get him going and he was fine, no problem. The horse on my outside (Wells Bayou) broke right away like he wanted the lead. My horse just sat off the pace perfectly. He looked happy with that position. I’m so blessed to be here especially with what’s going on right now. I appreciate the opportunity all the people here at Oaklawn. Every time they welcome me, and I can’t be anymore happy about it. Thanks to them for everything.
Winning owner George Bolton, Nadal – “I just have to thank the timing. He had six weeks between starts. He went back to California and Bob (Baffert) worked him behind horses three times. I thought if there was speed today, he could sit off it. He had a much more comfortable trip than in the Rebel when he was attacked by three different challengers. I was very proud. He finished well. I have a secret. Bob called me two days ago and said he wanted me to come. He said he thought he’d run big and wanted me there.”
Trainer Juan Carlos Avila, second with King Guillermo – “I was nervous. I am so happy. I think we will run better in Kentucky. No travel.”
Trainer Brad Cox, Wells Bayou, fifth – "No excuse. I think that we found out right now, he's a Derby horse. He's got enough points. We're going to have to show a little bit more between now and September to feel confident, have confidence in the Derby. But, we'll regroup."
Top 12 Kentucky Derby points leaders
Tiz the Law 122
Well Bayou 104
King Guillermo 90
Ete Indien 74
Mr. Monomoy 52
Mischevious Alex 50
Ny Traffic 50