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Pace made the race at the Arkansas Derby on Saturday

A friend of mine reminded me that my article predicting that eventual Arkansas Derby winner Super Stock would pass tiring horses late was spot on. What I had not predicted was that he would actually win the race.

My thought was that he would sit behind the early pace setters, come running late and possibly get an all important placing in a G1 Stakes.

Upon further review of that same article, I had suggested that the two favorites could potentially compromise each others chances to win if they pressured each other early. My thought was based on an old horse racing axiom: pace makes the race.

The two favorites — undefeated Concert Tour and highly respected Caddo River — had met one race in the G2 Rebel. Concert Tour got an easy lead, and was able to carve out comfortable fractional times of just under 24 seconds for the first quarter mile and 47.5 seconds for the first half mile. He was not pressured, and won easily.

The pace of the Arkansas Derby was much quicker. The first quarter was run in 22.62 seconds, with Concert Tour obtaining the early lead. Concert Tour’s jockey then intentionally conceded that lead to Caddo River, but the half was run in a pressured, 46.51 seconds.

That type of pace might be tolerable at a shorter distance, but not when the distances keep increasing. The Rebel was 1 1/16 of a mile, or 110 yards shorter, than Saturday’s 1 1/8 of a mile Arkansas Derby. That additional 110 yards, combined with a faster early and pressured pace, cost both front runners in the final strides.

Super Stock, who had only one win prior to Saturday’s huge victory, did have several stakes placings as a 2-year-old. He then had a four-month gap between races, finishing a respectable fourth in the aforementioned Rebel.

He may have needed that race after the layoff, and is obviously still maturing. He certainly benefitted from sitting off the fast early pace, while being ridden patiently while saving ground along the rail around both turns. Super Stock was then angled outside coming down the home stretch. He passed the early leaders in the final 100 yards, winning a G1 in the process.

Caddo River and Concert Tour both held on for second and third, respectively. The top 3 finishers all have earned enough points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.

Pace will definitely be a factor in that race. It is 1/8 of a mile longer, and will have 20 horses jostling for position, especially in that first quarter mile.

And down the stretch they come!

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