ARKANSAS DERBY-GRADE 1 (OAKLAWN) April 1, 2023
Winner: ANGEL OF EMPIRE (Classic Empire-Armony’s Angel)
Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Flavia Prat
Owner: Albaugh Family Stables
Distance / Time: 1 1/8 miles 1:49 3/5 Track Fast
Win Margin: 4 ¼ lengths.
Wizard’s Track Bias: None
Wizard’s Pace Analysis: Lively
Wizard’s Strength of Race: 2.5 / 5
With the exception of the winner ANGEL OF EMPIRE, I’m not interested in any other horse out of the Arkansas Derby as a potential Kentucky Derby contender. The steadily improving Angel of Empire was tons the best of a weak field. I liked the way he rated in 7th position in the early going racing wide down the backstretch. When Prat called on him to commence his rally on the far turn, Angel of Empire responded right on cue, picking up horses one-by one. He easily took command at the top of the lane and steadily drew off to a convincing 4 ¼ length victory. Angel of Empire gives me every impression that he should be able to handle the stretch out to 1 ¼ miles in the Kentucky Derby. He will be facing stiffer competition than what he confronted on Saturday.
58-1 shot KING RUSSELL rallied for 2nd. Considering he was coming off a hard-fought maiden win by a neck in his prior start earning a 78 Beyer number, that does not bode well for the strength of this field and for those who finished behind him. REINCARNATE, ROCKET CAN and RED ROUTE ONE, the first 3 betting choices, were never a threat to the winner. I’m not interested in any one of those 3 as Kentucky Derby contenders.