Tuesday, April 19, 2011

SPORTS >> Archarcharch triumphant, Kentucky bound

Leader sports editor

Fifteen minutes is a short time, longer than most horse races, but still a short time.

So it’s good for Jacksonville’s Bob and Val Yagos that 15 minutes wasn’t long enough for them to complete the proposed sale of their horse Archarcharch in February. Otherwise the colt wouldn’t have pulled off his upset victory in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn on Saturday to earn a place in the field for the Kentucky Derby in May.

Archarcharch, with last year’s winning jockey Jon Court in the saddle, went off at 25-1 but displayed a powerful final kick at the mile marker, closing on Dance City and Sway Away in the final 16th and holding off Nehro by a neck to finish in 1:49.34 and win the $1 million race. Favored The Factor finished out of the money at the Hot Springs track.

It was the first Grade 1 victory for the Yagoses and trainer Jinks Fires, of Hot Springs.

“We had talked it over with the trainer and the jockey and everything,” Bob Yagos said. “We had talked it over before the race. We knew we had a good enough horse to win. It wasn’t a question.”

The victory justified the Yagos’ change of heart after they initially put Archarcharch up for sale to an interest from the United Kingdom who was willing to pay seven figures to acquire the colt and run him in 3-year-old events in Dubai.

But time worked against the sale and, as it turned out in favor of Yagos. The contract was signed 15 minutes too late to be legal and the rest is now horse- racing history.

“There was a difference in time zones and all that type of stuff,” Yagos said. “And we couldn’t get the contracts exchanged and in between my wife had a change of heart and we decided to keep him.”

Now Archarcharch will run at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on May 7 in one of horse racing’s most storied events.

Yagos shipped Archarcharch, who they originally purchased at auction, to Kentucky late Monday, so Fires and the colt could begin preparation for the Kentucky Derby.

Yagos said he was planning to attend the Kentucky Derby anyway, but to have a horse running in the first leg of the Triple Crown is obviously more exciting.

“I think we’ve got a good shot. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t go,” said Yagos, who owns and operates JB’s Auto Salvage in Jacksonville. “I don’t want to go just as an also-ran and get at the bottom of the earnings list.

“Just to get there wouldn’t be fair to the horse because there’s plenty of other races he can get in and be competitive.”

And Yagos knows firsthand how competitive Archarcharch is.

“He’s wanting to go to the track,” Yagos said. “He’s that type of horse. He’s mad if he doesn’t get to go to the track. We normally give him two days off after a race and walk him for two days or so and he wants to go to the track the next day.”

With that in mind, Yagos, Fires and Court settled on Archarcharch’s late-breaking strategy.

“We knew his best effort would be coming off the pace,” Yagos said. “He has a big, long stride. He has a great foot going around the turns and he gains a lot of ground going around the turns when a lot of horses lose ground.

“We just decided to let the speed go.”

His stretch run made Archarcharch the first horse to win both the Southwest Stakes and Arkansas Derby since Lawyer Ron in 2006.

The victory also made Court, Fires’ son-in-law, the first jockey win consecutive runnings of the Arkansas Derby since Garrett Gomez rode Concern and Dazzling Falls to victory in 1994 and 1995.

Yagos said the team likes to use Court whenever he is available, and while Archarcharch has had different riders, they were happy Court was available for Saturday’s race.

“I have the utmost confidence in Jon,” Yagos said. “He makes good decisions. He’s a smart jockey. He’ll stay out of trouble and he won’t put the horse in harm’s way.”

The fact that Court is part of Fires’ family helps the trust factor, Yagos said.

“This business is like everything else, there are people out there you can trust,” Yagos said. “You feel comfortable with them and that’s the whole thing. You start spending the kind of money you do in this business you need somebody there you know is looking out for your best interests and the best interests of the horse.

“And that’s what it’s all about, the horse.”