HOT SPRINGS, Ark. -- Despite a record in which he has won two stakes in four career starts, Archarcharch finds himself needing a big effort Saturday in the Grade 2, $300,000 Rebel at Oaklawn to be looked upon as one of the nation's top 3-year-olds. And he probably won't be the favorite in the 1 1/16-mile race that serves as a springboard to the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby.
Archarcharch was 14-1 last month when he darted to a one-length win over favorite J P's Gusto and second choice Elite Alex in the Grade 3, $250,000 Southwest at Oaklawn. And he could be in the 10-1 range Saturday as both of those horses had troubled trips, and the Rebel will pick up Southern California steamers The Factor and Sway Away.
But odds aside, Archarcharch has the confidence of his connections. He won his maiden in the $56,000 Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds in December, the race that ensured he had the earnings to get into the Southwest. And since his win last month he has thrived, breezing a half-mile in hand in a bullet 47.60 seconds Tuesday at Oaklawn.
"I think he's Kentucky Derby-bound," said Jon Court, the regular rider on Archarcharch who won last year's Arkansas Derby with Line of David. "I would like to see that transpire. I think he's worthy of the Triple Crown series.
"He's one of those horses that has the talent that stands out, and when you're sitting on his back you can feel it. You can tell it, just from his disposition to his physical skills.
He's got that little extra that you know will take you to the bigger races, the more prestigious races."
I may be kicking myself for this, but on my tombstone I'd rather it say, 'He went to the Kentucky Derby,' rather than, 'He sold the horse that won the Derby.'
”-- Owner Bob Yagos
Others have noticed, too. Bob Yagos, who on the advice of his trainer, Jinks Fires, purchased Archarcharch for $60,000 as a yearling at Keeenland in 2009, has fielded a number of offers on the horse since the Sugar Bowl. Archarcharch closed fast to win the six-furlong race in 1:10.40, with a Beyer Figure of 88. The inquiries intensified following the Southwest, and after three offers came in for $2 million each, Yagos discussed the situation with his wife, Val. He ended up selling a half-interest in the horse last week -- for $10 to Val -- and the couple plans to continue to race Archarcharch.
"I may be kicking myself for this, but on my tombstone I'd rather it say, 'He went to the Kentucky Derby,' rather than, 'He sold the horse that won the Derby,'" said Yagos, 59. "We've been doing this for 20 years. The thrill of having a horse of this quality, the people that are surrounding him, Jinks Fires and the barn over there, it's a lot more than money."
Yagos, who owns an auto salvage company in Jacksonville, Ark., gave Fires the green light to purchase Archarcharch when the colt caught the trainer's eye at auction.
"He just had that look about him," Fires said. "He's really a good-made horse. And he was pretty laid back, I noticed. I watched that part of it, too. At Keeneland, you get to watch them quite a while in the back before they make it to the main ring up there."
Fires said Archarcharch was the session-topper that afternoon. And the horse's value has done nothing but rise since the hammer dropped. Last year, his sire, Arch, accounted for Breeders' Cup Classic winner Blame. Archarcharch's dam is Woodman's Dancer, a multiple graded-stakes placed sprinter who went 5 for 19 and earned $298,486.
Archarcharch, meanwhile, has developed into an imposing individual. Fires estimates the strong-looking colt stands about 16-2 hands tall. He was the favorite in his Oaklawn debut, the $100,000 Smarty Jones on Jan. 17, off the strength of his Sugar Bowl. Archarcharch ended up fourth in what was his two-turn debut, but afterwards was found to have filling in a hock, said Fires. The horse bounced back in the Southwest, putting in a sustained run from the half-mile pole home while hung four-wide on the final turn in the one-mile race that ended at the sixteenth pole at Oaklawn.
"He told us pretty much what we already thought we knew, that he was a gritty horse, and that he had a lot of talent," Fires said.
Yagos, whose best horse to date has been the now-at-stud Spotsgone, a multiple Grade 3 winner of $659,307, is looking forward to the Rebel on Saturday.
"We got lucky with Spotsgone and we've had some other decent horses," said Yagos, who currently has three head racing. "This horse could make a big difference. But even if he doesn't win another race, we're just going to have fun with him. He deserves a shot."