Lightly raced American Pioneer drew post 5 for his scheduled stakes debut in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) Saturday at Oaklawn. American Pioneer, an 8-1 shot in the program, was an eye-catching maiden winner in his last start, March 19 at Oaklawn. It was just his second race overall.
It’s one extreme to the other for multiple stakes winner Discreetness, who drew the rail for Saturday’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1). Trained by Jinks Fires of Hot Springs, Discreetness drew the extreme outside, post 14, for the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15 at Oaklawn. Caught wide throughout, Discreetness ran seventh in the Southwest. Fires wasn’t a fan of Discreetness’ post position for the Southwest. Ditto for the Arkansas Derby, a spot he calls, “not a good thing.” “If you don’t break real good, you’re in a pocket most of the way,” Fires said. Discreetness, who is coming off a seventh-place finish in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 19 at Oaklawn, worked 3 furlongs out of the gate in :36.40 Saturday morning. Discreetness sat just off the pace in his last two victories, the $250,000 Springboard Mile Dec. 13 at Remington Park and $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 18 at Oaklawn in his 3-year-old debut. “We plan to be closer,” Fires said. “We jumped him out of the gate a couple of days ago to make him break better, we think. We’ll have to see how good he breaks and what kind of trouble we get in that first turn.” Jon Court, the regular rider of Discreetness, won the Arkansas Derby in 2010 aboard Line of David and the following year aboard Archarcharch for Fires, the jockey’s father-in-law. Discreetness, 20-1 on the morning line, is owned by Fires’ major client, Dwight Pruett of Texarkana, Ark. (Xpress Thoroughbreds).
Carve will take another chance at surpassing the $1 million mark in career earnings when he runs in the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older horses Saturday at Oaklawn. A 6-year-old son of First Samurai, Carve finished third in the 2014 Oaklawn Handicap and second in last year’s event. He currently has $970,640 in career earnings, meaning a top four finish Saturday will push the gelding over the top. “Because of his feet bothering him last year, I think we would have been there,” said owner Mike Langford, a commercial real estate developer from Jonesboro, Ark. “Had to give him some time. I’ve got a good feeling that he will get there. It may not be there by winning, but I think he’ll have a good shot to get there.” On behalf of Langford, six-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen claimed Carve out of his 2013 career debut victory at Oaklawn for $30,000. Carve, then with trainer Brad Cox, was a powerful winner of the $100,000 Fifth Season Stakes last year at Oaklawn in his 2015 debut. He was most recently seventh in the $350,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) March 19, but was only beat 2 ½ lengths. One race earlier, he finished third in the Essex Handicap. “For whatever reason, he probably bounced in his last race,” Langford said. “I think he’s sitting on a big race. He better be. I think this is about as tough as it’s been in 10 years, the Oaklawn Handicap.” Carve, to be ridden by Rafael Bejarano, is 15-1 on the morning line.