For years I have been producing Derby winners, Preakness winners, and Belmont winner. Two years in row I came with in one jewel of preparing a horse to take America's most esteemed honor. I was a stepping stone for greats and I led to the notice and development of future brilliance that soon led to awards such as Horse of the Year, Champion Older Male, and Champion Three Year Old. Despite my accomplishments and my long list of champions I still never was granted elite status until one month before the end of 2009. I am the Arkansas Derby.
For years this race has produce not just talented three year olds that have gone on to do well in the Triple Crown but also horses that have gone on to compete successfully in races like the Travers, Haskell, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and even the big enchilada, the Breeders Cup Classic. In 1980 the race propelled Temperance Hill to a win in the Belmont Stakes. Later that year we also saw the talented three year old win the prestigious Travers Stakes then go on to defeat his elders in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Then, only three years later we saw Sunny's Halo soar to a Kentucky Derby win after prepping in Arkansas. Two years after Sunny's Halo came the Preakness winner Tanks Prospect, who also is a shared record holder of the track record of 1.53.4 seconds. Other notable horses who ran in the race during the nineties are Pine Bluff, Concern, and Victory Gallop, the horse who ended Real Quiet's Triple Crown Bid by a scant nose.
After a few years, until about 2004, the Arkansas Derby had a small drought of champions, but as soon as it hit that magic year the race pumped out champion after champion, graded one winner after grade one winner up until 2008. 2004 was the year the American nation saw Smarty Jones bid for the Triple Crown, only to tire in the Belmont, beaten two lengths. 05 saw the plucky Afleet Alex, finish third in the Derby, but go on to scintillating wins in both the Preakness and Belmont. 2006 held no Triple Crown glory but gave us the next years Champion Older male and Whitney and Woodward winner, Lawyer Ron.
2007 was arguable the best year for the Arkansas Derby. That was the year we saw the birth of a superstar, who rose from the obscurity of a maiden to become a two time Horse of the Year and Breeders Cup Classic winner. Curlin, after winning the Arkansas Derby ran third in the Derby, then came back to beat the Derby winner Street Sense in a thrill stretch drive, winning by a head. Curlin's list of accomplishments include becoming America's all Time leading racehorse in earnings, two Horse of the Year titles along with one as Champion Three Year Old and Older Male.
2008 was not as good of a year, but the winner of the 08 edition of the Arkansas Derby, Gayego has become a grade one winner and superb race horse. The Gelding ran in this year's Breeders Cup Sprint, and last year's Derby and Preakness.
Despite the who's who list of horses in the Arkansas Derby and the four year run of helping to mold future starts and champions, it was denied the status of a grade on year after year after year. It was denied the same status as the grade one Florida Derby or Blue Grass when it has produced horses of the quality as the two aforementioned races. It was only just this last month that the race was finally was upgraded from a grade one from a grade two. All I can say to that is it's about time! About time that this race was finally recognized for it's accomplishments. It is about time that the Arkansas Derby was given that long overdue grade one status, allowing it to sit among the elite races along the Derby trail.