His status for the first classic of the season remains uncertain, but there’s no question Arabian Knight will be a three-year-old to keep an eye on the rest of the year after the colt turned in another dazzling display to win the $750,000 Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn Park on Saturday.
Favored at 2-5 against seven rivals in the 1 1/16-mile test held in wet and sloppy conditions, Arabian Knight smoothly popped out of the gate on top and never looked back en route to a 5 1/2-length score under John Velazquez. After setting fractions of :22.98, :46.82, and 1:11.88, Arabian Knight finished up in 1:43.50 and paid $2.80.
The Southwest was Arabian Knight’s second career start, the first being his 7 1/4-length maiden win going seven furlongs at Keeneland last November on Breeders’ Cup weekend. The word was out on Arabian Knight that day, as he started an odds-on favorite against 10 rivals.
Arabian Knight races for Zedan Racing Stables and is trained by Bob Baffert, whose current suspension from racing at Churchill Downs following the disqualification of the Zedan-owned Medina Spirit from first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby (G1) precluded Arabian Knight from earning the 20 Derby qualifying points on offer to the Southwest winner.
Points were awarded, however, to the next four finishers in the Southwest. Red Route One rallied from last to finish second by two lengths over 46-1 outsider Frosted Departure, who was followed by fellow Kenny McPeek stablemate Sun Thunder and the Gun Runner S. winner Jace’s Road. Another notable also-ran was second choice Corona Bolt, who finished sixth after winning his first two starts at Fair Grounds.
Red Route One earned eight points, boosting his total to 10. Frosted Departure secured six points and Sun Thunder four points, while Jace’s Road increased his total from 13 to 15.
Baffert has enjoyed immense success in Oaklawn’s three main classic preps over the past 15 years. He previously won the Southwest with Conveyance (2010), Super Ninety Nine (2013), and Newgrange (2022), and also captured both divisions of the race in 20212 with Secret Circle and Castaway.
Baffert said there were no immediate plans for Arabian Knight’s next start, saying: “I think he’s the kind of horse that need a little time, the way he runs. By summer I think he’s going to be ridiculous. We’re always looking for the next American Pharoah.”
Bred in Kentucky by Corser Thoroughbreds and sold for $2.3 million at last year’s OBS April sale of juveniles, Arabian Knight is by Uncle Mo and out of Borealis Night, by Astrology.
Earlier in the card, Grade 1 veteran Gunite lorded over five overmatched rivals in the $150,000 King Cotton S. for owner Ron Winchell, trainer Steve Asmussen, and jockey Ricardo Santana Jr.
Using the King Cotton as a prep for next month’s $1.5 million Riyadh Dirt Sprint in Saudi Arabia, Gunite drew off late to win by four lengths in a time of 1:08.09. Tejano Twist finished second by 1 3/4 lengths over Miles Ahead.
The King Cotton was the sixth career stakes win for the four-year-old son of Gun Runner, whose signature win occurred in the 2021 Hopeful (G1). Last season he added the Amsterdam (G2) at Saratoga as well as the Maxfield S., Harrods Creek S., and Perryville S. in Kentucky, all restricted to three-year-olds. Gunite also placed in the H. Allen Jerkens (G1).