Albaugh Family Stables LLC’s Angel of Empire capped a big day for trainer Brad Cox as he provided his trainer with his second straight victory in the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) and his third stakes win of the day. Before an on-track crowd of 65,000, Cox also won the $200,000 Hot Springs Stakes with Eyeing Clover and the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes with Wet Paint.

“It’s just really gratifying when you can win a Grade 1, especially the Arkansas Derby,” said Jason Loutsch, racing manager and, with his father-in-law Dennis Albaugh, co-owner of Albaugh Family Stables. “This is a race we’ve been pointing at a long time and to win it is really special.”

With jockey Flavien Prat in the saddle, the fast-improving Angel of Empire was unhurried early and raced in seventh place while Two Eagles River set the pace of :23 1/5 and :47 1/5 for the first half mile. The winner was still sixth after three-quarters of a mile, but moved quickly to first entering the stretch and drew off impressively to win by 4 ¼ lengths over longshot King Russell. Reincarnate, the 3-1 second choice, was third with 5-2 favorite Rocket Can fourth.

Angel of Empire, who began the year with a second in Oaklawn’s Smarty Jones Stakes and was coming off a win in Fair Ground’s Risen Star Stakes (G3), earned 100 points for the win and is now second on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 154 total points. King Russell earned 40 points and currently sits 17th. Reincarnate has 45 total points and is currently 13th and Rocket Can has 60 points to rank seventh. Only the top 20 point earners get to start in the Kentucky Derby.

“After seeing that race, I’ve got a lot of confidence,” Loutsch said. “This is a horse I’ve been saying day 1 wants to get the distance. He showed that twice at a mile and an eighth. He just keeps running. I thought he ran a great race today, and I’m excited for the First Saturday in May.”

Angel of Empire, a son of 2017 Arkansas Derby winner Classic Empire, has now won four of six starts and earned $1,069,375. He returned to $11.40, $5.80 and $4.40.

Angel of Empire was bred in Pennsylvania by Forgotten Land Investment Inc and Black Diamond Equine Corp. He is out of the winless To Honor and Serve mare Armony’s Angel. With his win today, he gave the Albaugh operation three potential Kentucky Derby starters; they also own Florida Derby show horse Cyclone Mischief and Jace’s Road, third in last week’s Louisiana Derby.

“To have three potential starters in the Kentucky Derby is a dream come true,” Loutsch added. “I just can’t hardly believe it. I’m so thankful for my father in law, that he believed in us and got us to this point.”

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Cover Photo Credit: Angel of Empire romped home in the Arkansas Derby. Photo Coady Photography

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