HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — Danza pulled away in the home stretch to shock a star-packed field in the Arkansas Derby on Saturday, giving trainer Todd Pletcher his second straight victory in the $1 million race.
The colt went off at 40-1 at Oaklawn Park and beat Ride on Curlin by 4¾ lengths, running 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.68 in the Kentucky Derby prep.
Ridden by Joe Bravo, Danza paid $84.60, $28.40 and $11 and earned 100 points in the Kentucky Derby standings. Ride on Curlin returned $7 and $4, and pre-race favorite and Bob Baffert-trained Bayern paid $4 to show.
Tapiture, who won the Southwest Stakes and was second in the Rebel Stakes, finished fourth.
Pletcher won the Derby last year with Overanalyze, which was a then-record third time. The former assistant to D. Wayne Lukas added to his record with a fourth win in the race Saturday, and it’s the second time he has won in back-to-back years — after also winning in 2000 with Graeme Hall and 2001 with Balto Star.
Ride on Curlin earned 40 Derby points, and Bayern received 20.
Bayern overtook Tapiture as the pre-race favorite Saturday, and the colt — who missed the San Felipe Stakes last month with a foot bruise — opened quickly in the eight-horse field.
He led with Thundergram for much of the first turn and on the back stretch, where Tapiture finally made a much-expected and hard charge on the outside. The charge, however, for the Southwest Stakes winner wasn’t enough.
The lead pack was four wide entering the final turn, after which Danza shocked the crowd of 63,186 by pulling away down the stretch for the convincing win.
The colt finished third in his only other race this year, an optional allowance claiming race at Gulfstream Park last month. His relative inexperience, however, didn’t show against a field that featured several Kentucky Derby hopefuls.
Danza earned $600,000. Ride on Curlin, third in both the Southwest Stakes and Rebel Stakes — got $200,000, and Bayern $100,000.