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Arabian Knight delivers for Baffert in Southwest

by Joe Luciano | January 29, 2023 at 3:38 a.m.

HOT SPRINGS -- Except for the names and a few other changes, the story was the same one Saturday as in the 2015 Rebel Stakes.

A Bob Baffert-trained horse won a graded stake in the slop at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort seemingly without a care in the world.

Make this in the Grade III Southwest Stakes in January rather than a Grade II in March and change the name from American Pharoah to Arabian Knight, and the similarities are numerous.

On that day in 2015, American Pharoah, the 2014 juvenile champion from three starts, furthered his education in wet conditions that he would re-experience in the Preakness Stakes. They couldn't catch what, in this case, they almost couldn't see.

In a typically towering performance for the Hall of Fame trainer, Arabian Knight broke Baffert's record of five Southwest victories with his second straight win in the Southwest. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez had only to guide the way for the Uncle Mo colt, whose $2.3 million purchase price as a 2-year-old some day might rate as a bargain.

If not, it may get Baffert back in the Kentucky Derby, albeit with another trainer saddling the horse while Baffert completes a Churchill Downs ban imposed after Medina Spirit failed a drug test after winning the 2021 Derby.

Baffert's 19th Oaklawn win in a Kentucky Derby prep came in a glorified "non-winners of two" race worth $458,250 to the winner. Although no Derby qualifying points were available to the winner because of the ban against Baffert, Arabian Knight lived up to the promise hinted at in a Nov. 5 race on the Breeders' Cup undercard at Keeneland he won by 7 1/2 lengths and gained a Beyer speed figure of 97 for seven furlongs.

Arabian Knight, who like Saturday's other starters, ran without medication per Derby regulations, went 1 1/16th miles in 1:43.50, paying $2.80 to win, $2.40 to place and $2.20 to show. Red Route One closed from eighth to second for trainer Steve Asmussen with jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. and paid $6.60 to place and $4.60 to show. Frosted Departure, Oaklawn's Year End Stakes winner Dec. 31 for Ken McPeek, took third at 46-1 under Francisco Arrieta, paying $6.20.

Of trainer Brad Cox's two entrants, Jace's Road challenged briefly on the second turn before fading to fifth, just ahead of fellow last-out Fair Grounds stakes winner Corona Bolt. Red Route One, Frosted Departure, Sun Thunder and Jace's Road are eligible for Derby points.

The Rebel Stajes on Feb. 25 and the $1.25 million Grade I Arkansas Derby on April 1 offer additional Kentucky Derby points. Victory Formation earned 10 Derby points for Cox and Arkansas co-owner Frank Fletcher in the Smarty Jones mile Jan. 1.

Baffert has four Arkansas Derby victories: Bodemeister (2012), American Pharoah (2015), Charlatan and Nadal (the 2020 race run in divisions). Charlatan's disqualification was overturned in 2021 by the Arkansas Racing Commission despite an affirmative stewards' ruling. On that date, the 2020 Oaklawn stakes victory of Baffert-trained filly Gamine also was restored.

Print Headline: Arabian Knight delivers for Baffert in Southwest


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