Who won the Arkansas Derby?

Baffert Picks Up Richest Derby Victory This Year

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert picked up the richest derby he is eligible for this year when Muth won the Grade 1, $1.5 million Arkansas Derby impressively by two lengths over Just Steel. Southwest Stakes winner (G3) winner Mystik Dan was 4 1/4 lengths back in third with even-money favorite Timberlake in fourth and long shot Informed Patriot in fifth.

Baffert Picks Up Richest Derby Victory This Year

Baffert’s Arkansas Derby Success

The Arkansas Derby was worth 100 points toward eligibility in the Kentucky Derby, but this is the third straight year horses trained by Baffert have been banned by Churchill Downs. His suspension followed Medina Spirit’s disqualification from his 2021 Kentucky Derby victory for a post-race positive for betamethasone.

Despite the ban, Baffert was thrilled to get the victory in Oaklawn’s marquee race for a record-tying fifth time. Todd Pletcher is the only other trainer with five wins in the Arkansas Derby.

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Muth’s Impressive Performance

Owned by Zedan Racing Stables, Muth ($6.60) enjoyed an outside stalking trip under jockey Juan Hernández and was in perfect position to pounce on Timberlake turning for home. He easily drew off to win the 1 1/8 mile race with a time of 1:49.54 over a fast track.

“My horse broke good, and I was able to get into position,” Hernández said. “I wanted to be outside. He was nice and relaxed down the backside. When I called on him, he responded.”

Baffert’s Reaction and Future Plans

“When I saw Timberlake move up in there, I was concerned, because I figured he’s the horse to beat, but he stayed with him, and I’m proud of the horse,” Baffert said by phone from California. “Really, the only horse to beat him was Fierceness, and we saw what he did today (winning the Florida Derby by 13 1/2 lengths). I’m happy for everybody. It’s an important race. You all know how much the races at Oaklawn mean to me.”

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Baffert added, “I try not to think about (the Kentucky Derby). I’m just happy for the horse. The Arkansas Derby is a very important race to win, and I’m just proud of the horse. We’ll just get him home. Don’t know what we’ll do. Just be happy to get him home and figure it out.”

Later at an NCAA Tournament men’s basketball game between Alabama and Clemson in Los Angeles, Baffert told AL.com, “Hopefully Preakness.” Baffert was sporting Crimson Tide colors to support his friend Greg Byrne, the athletic director at Alabama.

D. Wayne Lukas’ Reaction and Kentucky Derby Prospects

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas felt vindicated when Just Steel rebounded from his poor performance in the Feb. 29 Rebel Stakes (G2), but he also took a chance to champion for once rival turned close friend Baffert.

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“We’re excited, but it’s disappointing there won’t be Bob (in the Kentucky Derby),” Lukas said. “He’s got great horses. He’s got Derby horses, but he’s going through a lot of things right now that shouldn’t be happening. But we can’t change that. I was confident about my horse. I was telling someone else, when there’s a little bit of brilliance in there, when you see it, you can dig in there and get it. If they don’t have that brilliance, then you’re just in la-la land bringing these horses over and hoping, but he’s got some in him, and now we just have to see if we can get it out of him.”

The points Just Steel earned are more than likely enough to get Lukas, 88, to his 30th Kentucky Derby. It would be his first since Bravazo finished sixth for him in 2018.

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