25-1 Archarcharch wins Arkansas Derby
Bob Yagos signed the contract to sell his prized colt Archarcharch following a win at the Southwest Stakes in February.
When the seven-figure agreement was returned by the potential overseas buyer 15 minutes past the deadline, Yagos had a change of heart.
That decision paid off when Archarcharch, ridden by Jon Court, used an overpowering final kick to win the $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on Saturday. It was the first Grade 1 victory for trainer Jinks Fires, and it booked the first trip to next month's Kentucky Derby for both Arkansas natives Yagos and Fires.
''That was our fear, making the wrong decision,'' Yagos said of selling Archarcharch. ''Now we know we made the right one.''
Archarcharch was overlooked entering the race after a third-place finish at last month's Rebel Stakes and went off at 25-1. Despite the struggles, which Finks blamed on a pre-race dustup in the Oaklawn gate, neither Yagos nor Finks lost faith in the colt.
''It's wonderful,'' Yagos said. ''We could only dream this would happen. We've never lost confidence in him. We knew we'd have to run against these horses wherever we went.
''We had the best horse, the best jockey and the best trainer. Today was their day.''
Heavy pre-race favorite The Factor finished seventh. The Factor entered with three wire-to-wire wins, but he fell behind the early pace of J P's Gusto and Dance City.
J P's Gusto ran the first quarter-mile in 22.54 and continued setting the pace with a 46.53 half-mile. The early pace was too much for the front-running The Factor, who was unaccustomed to trailing.
''My horse likes to be on the lead, but there was so much speed in there and I didn't want to go with them,'' jockey Martin Garcia said. ''He didn't like to be taken back. I didn't want to do it, but I didn't want to kill him.''
The Bob Baffert-trained colt won last month's Rebel Stakes by 6 1/4 lengths, but had never run more than 1 1/16 miles and was unable to find the needed closing kick in the 1 1/8-mile race on Saturday.
The Factor co-owner George Bolton had said the colt needed to perform well in the final 1/8 mile at Oaklawn to ensure a trip to Churchill Downs. Baffert wanted no part of such a commitment following the Arkansas disappointment.
''We'll see how he is,'' Baffert said. ''Right now, I'm not even going to comment on that.''
While The Factor showed little closing ability on Saturday, Archarcharch began his march at the mile marker. He closed in a fury on the outside of Dance City and Sway Away, much like he had done while winning the Southwest, and finished in 1:49.34.
The push proved just enough as he held off a late-charging Nehro by a neck. Archarcharch paid $52.40, $16.80 and $8.20, while Nehro paid $9 and $5.60 for finishing second and Dance City paid $14.20 in third.
''This horse is something special,'' Yagos said. ''Jinks gave us confidence in this horse since Day 1.
''This is a big thrill for the family and everyone involved.''