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Handlers happy with draws for Arkansas Derby, Count Fleet

April 7, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.
Jockey Joel Rosario and Arkansas Derby favorite Concert Tour head out to the track on March 13 prior to winning the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn. - Photo by Richard Rasmussen of The Sentinel-Record

At least for the day, the stars' handlers seemed content.

Post positions were drawn at Oaklawn Tuesday for Saturday's two graded stakes and the other 11 races on the 13-race card, including two other non-graded stakes. The second day of the Racing Festival of the South features the Grade 1 $1 million mile-and-eighth Arkansas Derby for three-year-old horses and the Grade III $500,000 six-furlong Count Fleet Sprint Handicap for horses four years old and up.

Likely Arkansas Derby favorite Concert Tour, a son of Street Sense owned by Gary and Mary West, is set to start from the No. 5 gate in the expected six-horse field of the Arkansas Derby and John Ed Anthony's Caddo River, winner of Oaklawn's 1-mile Smarty Jones Stakes on Jan. 22, is listed to start from No. 2 starting gate.

In the Count Fleet, 2020 champion sprinter Whitmore is entered to start from the second gate in the probable seven-horse field. C Z Rocket, a son of City Zip trained by Peter Miller, finished second to Whitmore in the 2020 Breeders' Cup Sprint and is set to start from the sixth gate.

"When you're going a mile and an eighth, (post position) is not a big deal," Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said. "There's a good run to the turn, so it's not going to be that big of a deal. It's fine. Concert Tour is a fast horse. He breaks really quick."

Concert Tour won Oaklawn's Grade 2 mile-and-sixteenth Rebel Stakes on March 13. It was Baffert's eighth Rebel win as a trainer.

"The way he ran last time, that was sort of his coming-out party," Baffert said. "I'm excited about him."

Baffert also trains Arkansas Derby entrant Hozier, who is set to start from the third gate. Hozier, by Pioneerof the Nile, finished second in the Rebel.

C Z Rocket was shipped to Oaklawn for the six-furlong Hot Springs Stakes on March 13 and left with an upset win by a neck over Whitmore.

Both Miller and Baffert are based in Southern California.

Whitmore had won the previous four Hot Springs Stakes, the longest streak of stakes wins at Oaklawn since racing began at the track in 1904.

Miller said C Z Rocket's outside post-position was ideal.

"I like the draw," Miller said. "I like being out in the clear, being able to see what's going on inside of us."

Oaklawn-based trainer Ron Moquett said Whitmore races best from the inside.

"(The post position) is fine," Moquett said. "We'd rather be on the inside than the outside with Whitmore."

Whitmore, an eight-year-old son of Pleasantly Perfect, is the defending Count Fleet champion. He also won the race in 2017 and 2018.

"Post position shouldn't be a problem," Moquett said. "He is more comfortable inside of horses. Sometimes, when he's on the outside, Whitmore gets a little lackadaisical and loses interest."

Miller also trains Arkansas Derby entrant Get Her Number, a son of Dialed In owned by Gary Barber, who will start from the fourth gate. Get Her Number finished a troubled seventh, 8 1/2 lengths behind Concert Tour, in the eight-horse Rebel field.

"I like (the six-horse field)," Miller said. "It should eliminate some of the traffic issues, so I'm good with that part of it."

Miller said the post position matters little in race as long as the Arkansas Derby with a short field.

"We're not going for the lead, so we're going to let him settle where he's comfortable," Miller said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to win it from off the pace."

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