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The Arkansas Derby: $1,000,000 Purse!

The Arkansas Derby will be held Saturday, April 16, 2011 at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The Arkansas Derby is open to three-year-olds willing to race one and one-eighth miles (9 furlongs) on the dirt. A Grade I stakes race, it offers a purse of $1,000,000.
Alternation on Monday was dedicated to the Arkansas Derby, making for a prospective field of 13, while a little later the same morning probable:  Brethren, Dance City, and Truman’s Commander arrived in town from Florida. Alternation is one of two probables for trainer Donnie Von Hemel.  Caleb’s Posse, who was second to The Factor in last month’s Grade 2, $300,000 Rebel at Oaklawn, is also likely to start for the barn, with the outside chance remaining that he could go in the Grade 2 Lexington at Keeneland on April 23. The decision on Alternation was made after training on Monday. Alternation was scratched from the Rebel after he reared in the starting gate and sat down.  He emerged from the incident without injury, and has since been working regularly at Oaklawn.
Brethren, who was third in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby in his last start March 12, will add blinkers for the Arkansas Derby, said his trainer, Todd Pletcher.  The horse is one of at least four starters in the race expected to be adding blinkers.  The others are Elite Alex, J P’s Gusto, and Sway Away. Dance City won his maiden at 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream Park in January, then came back and took a first-level allowance at the track March 19.  Dance City will be making his stakes debut in the Arkansas Derby. Truman’s Commander, a maiden winner, joined Brethren and Dance City for trainer Nick Zito.
With Uncle Mo losing for the first time at Wood Memorial, there’s a new No. 1 in The Associated Press’ latest Run to the Roses Top 10 list of Derby contenders: The Factor. The speedy 3-year-old gray colt moves up from No. 3 and could wind up as the Derby favorite May 7 if he wins the $1 million Arkansas Derby on Saturday. The Factor has won his last three starts going wire-to-wire. Archarcharch was third to The Factor in the Rebel, and will try him again in the Arkansas Derby.  He is trained by Jinks Fires.
Another performance similar to his 6 ½-length win in the Rebel March 19 would solidify The Factor as a Kentucky Derby favorite in the wake of the loss by champion Uncle Mo in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct.
In 2004, Oaklawn Park offered a $5 million bonus to any horse that could sweep the Oaklawn three-year-old graded stakes schedule: Rebel Stakes and the Arkansas Derby, and then take the Kentucky Derby. This helped increased participation from the top three-year-olds in the country to the point where the winners of four of the last nine Triple Crown races won the Arkansas Derby. Smarty Jones captured this feat the same year it was introduced.
Entries for the Arkansas Derby will be taken on Wednesday.