HOT SPRINGS, Ark. -- About a year ago at this time, few had ever heard of trainer Tim Ice. But he certainly made a name for himself the rest of 2009 with Summer Bird, who won the Belmont Stakes, Travers Stakes, and Jockey Club Gold Cup, and the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male.
It was here in the Arkansas Derby, though, that Summer Bird first showed the quality that would later put him and Ice on the national stage. Summer Bird finished third in the Arkansas Derby in only his third lifetime start. Two races later, he won the Belmont.
Much has happened to Ice since then, most notably having Summer Bird removed from his care by the colt's owners. But new owners, such as the Shortleaf Stable of John Ed Anthony, have stepped up, and Ice again this year finds himself with an Arkansas Derby runner.
Ice will send out New Madrid on Saturday in the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby, in which a field of nine was entered on Wednesday morning here at Oaklawn Park. Like Summer Bird, New Madrid will be a longshot; he is 20-1 on the track's morning line. Like Summer Bird, New Madrid is coming off a victory against maidens at Oaklawn Park. Whether the stories remain the same from here on out is to be seen.
"This is a class test for him," Ice said shortly before New Madrid drew post 6. "I think he's up for it. He's doing as well as you could want him to be doing. He's been here the whole meet. I think he'll move forward. There's a couple of heavy hitters, but we think he can get a part of it."
The field is topped by Super Saver - who was third in the Tampa Bay Derby in his only start this year - as well as Noble's Promise and Dublin, who finished second and third in last month's Rebel Stakes, this track's major prep for the Arkansas Derby. Super Saver is the 9-5 favorite on the track's morning line, with Noble's Promise 2-1 and Dublin 7-2. They occupy the inside three posts in the
1 1/8-mile race, with Super Saver on the rail, and Dublin and Noble's Promise next to him, in that order.
D. Wayne Lukas, who trains Dublin, also is running Northern Giant. All runners are uncoupled in the wagering.
Stakes winners - Dublin, Noble's Promise, Super Saver, and Uh Oh Bango - carry 122 pounds, and the rest carry 118.