Under normal circumstances, Aron Wellman says, Farmington Road’s closing runner-up finish in last Saturday’s Oaklawn Stakes would have connections working back from the Belmont Stakes coming up in June.
This is, however, not a normal season, and there might not be a Belmont Stakes in June. So Wellman, president of co-owner Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, said the Todd Pletcher-trained son of Quality Road will remain at Oaklawn Park under consideration for the May 2 Arkansas Derby (G2).
“We’re going to monitor him very closely,” Wellman said. “If his energy level is good and he’s sending the right vibes, we’re going to take a long, hard look at running him in the Arkansas Derby.”
A two-turn maiden winner on Jan. 12 at Tampa Bay Downs, Farmington Road ran what connections considered a “sneaky-good” fifth in a division of the Risen Star Stakes (G2). They pointed him to Fair Grounds’ Louisiana Derby (G2) as well, but Farmington Road was left outside the body of the field, coming up just short in earnings.
So, too, was Mr. Big News, who rallied to win the Oaklawn Mile. Farmington Road, closing from the back of the pack, was second by a half length.
“We thought he ran a dynamite race,” Wellman said. “He was probably just a touch unlucky not to get up to win the race but certainly earned a lot of respect in defeat and validated our opinion of him: the farther the better.
“… From the day he came to Todd, we have considered him a true classic distance type of horse. It’s crazy to say, but we always thought of him more of a Belmont type than a (Kentucky) Derby type. The distance was always something of paramount importance to his development.”
Campaigned in partnership with Robert LaPenta and breeder Chrysalis Stables, Farmington Road made a gradual progression up to 1 1/8 miles, debuting in a six-furlong maiden race last October at Belmont Park before stretching to a one-turn mile in December.
“In both races he got a lot of dirt, a lot of seasoning, a lot of education,” Wellman said. “Then we hand-picked a spot at Tampa going two turns for the first time. He ran a very credible race to break his maiden.”
From there, it was on to added-money races.
Farmington Road exited the Oaklawn Stakes “in great shape,” Wellman said, and given a board-hitting performance has a guaranteed spot in a prospective Arkansas Derby field loaded with top 3-year-olds. Pletcher might have two runners from his barn with Grade 1-placed Gouverneur Morris training in Florida toward a potential start on the first Saturday in May.
The Arkansas Derby is a 100-40-20-10 points prep toward the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby.