40 - 1 Longshot Danza Convincingly Claims Arkansas Derby and a Kentucky Derby Spot

In the tradition of Mine That Bird, the second-biggest longshot to ever win the storied Kentucky Derby, unheard of Danza claimed the $1 million Arkansas Derby Kentucky prep race this past weekend. Mine That Bird ended up winning the first leg of the Triple Crown in 2009 by more than 6 lengths at odds of 50.60 - 1. Danza won the important Kentucky Derby qualifier and earned 100 points for his victory, cementing his spot in the 140th edition of The Run for the Roses this May 3. Owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Danza took advantage of his favorable rail position early, settled into third, and slipped through on the rail late to win easily by 4 3/4 lengths.

Surprisingly, this was just the fourth race of his career. And as the 78th winner of the Arkansas Derby, Danza also claimed the $600,000 first prize. With the second highest odds on the board, the impressive longshot paid $84.60, $28.40 and $11 at deep odds of 40 - 1. Jockey Joe Bravo was in the stirrups, helping Danza to a big victory in a field which included Kentucky Derby contenders Bayern and Tapiture, who finished fourth. The horse is one of many trained by Todd Pletcher, who owns the most entrants in this year's Kentucky Derby. Bravo pointed out that Pletcher "was pretty high on the horse" the morning of the race, telling his jockey not to "take anything away from him."

Referring to the fact that Danza was fresh, Pletcher felt it would be best if Bravo just let the horse run. That strategy proved successful, to say the least. Pletcher went on to point out that he always felt Danza was special, and was just looking for the appropriate big race to run him. Pletcher was also the trainer of last year's Arkansas Derby winner Overanalyze. With the victory and a guaranteed Kentucky Derby starting gate spot, the Street Boss colt improved to 2 wins in his 4 starts. The $600,000 prize money improved his career winnings to $666,428. Trainer Steve Asmussen said that the fourth place Tapiture seemed to run pretty wide in a race that held only a moderate pace.

He went on to state that he would take a look at his horse over the next couple of days. Tapiture is headed to Louisville tomorrow. Jockey Gary Stevens was on board Bayern, who finished in third. He said that, approaching the quarter pole, Danza moved on his inside towards the rail. He admitted surprise that the longshot was able to stay with him, and even eventually move ahead. Bayern is owned by Bob Baffert, who boasts the second most entries in the upcoming Kentucky Derby. Baffert's assistant Jim Barnes said that the duo will get together and have a talk about Bayern's future. The other big Kentucky Derby prep race actually went to a specialist of artificial tracks that may not even decide to run in Kentucky.

The Florida-bred colt of Two Step Salsa, Dance With Fate won Saturday's $750,000 Grade I Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland. Running on only seven days rest after winning on opening day at Keeneland, Medal Count finished second. The Place finish gave the colt enough points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby field. Trainer Dale Romans said that even though Medal Count has been busy as of late, he will definitely be at Churchill Downs. Trainer Peter Eurton said that Dance With Fate definitely prefers synthetic racetracks better than the turf of the famed Kentucky Derby, and he is unsure if the Toyota Blue Grass winner will make the trip for the initial leg of this year's Triple Crown thoroughbred horse races.

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