Bob Baffert once again ruled the first Saturday in May, this time in Arkansas.
The Baffert-trained Charlatan and Nadal — both heavy favorites — won their respective divisions in the $500,000, Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park and established themselves as top early contenders for the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
Charlatan took the lead out of the gate and didn’t look back in romping to victory in Division One.
The 2-5 favorite, Charlatan improved to 3 for 3 in his career. Ridden by Martin Garcia, Charlatan covered the 1⅛ miles in 1:48.49 and paid $2.80. Basin, who chased Charlatan in second place much of the race, finished six lengths back. Gouverneur Morris was third.
A son of Speightstown, Charlatan set fractions of 22.88 seconds for the quarter-mile, 46.08 seconds for the half-mile and 1:09.68 for three-quarters and never was seriously threatened.
Charlatan was making his stakes debut after winning his first two races at Santa Anita Park by a combined 16 lengths. He earned 100 qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby.
“I can say I am really lucky to ride him,” Garcia said. “Mr. Baffert and the owners had a lot of choices. They pick me. I just did my job. He just took me to the winner’s circle. They told me we were smoking. I went in 1:09, and he was just galloping. He did it all within himself. I felt someone coming at the (three-eighths pole), and I let him go. He just took off. That’s a sign of a really good horse.”
In Division Two, Nadal and jockey Joel Rosario set off pacesetter Wells Bayou, took the lead in the second turn and held off late charges by runner-up King Guillermo and third-place Finnick the Fierce to win with a time of 1:48.34.
The 4-5 favorite, Nadal paid $3.80 and earned 100 qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby.
A son of Blame, Nadal improved to 4 for 4 in his career. He previously won the Grade 2 Rebel on March 14 at Oaklawn.