Kentucky Derby 2023 Report: Arabian Knight Rolls

Arabian Knight Southwest Stakes: Coady Photography

By Jarrod Horak

The road to Kentucky Derby 2023 is starting to heat up. The races are getting longer and more points are on the line as we prepare to turn the calendar from February to March. Juvenile champion Forte is scheduled to make his much anticipated seasonal bow in the Fountain of Youth Stakes on March 4. If he is still the division leader it is not by much. Flashy Southwest Stakes winner Arabian Knight is turning heads at Oaklawn Park, and Brad Cox has a number of promising sophomores including Instant Coffee and Verifying.

In other Derby news, all Bob Bob Baffert runners must move to other barns by Feb. 28 if they want to earn Derby points. Some have already made the move. Arabian Lion, Carmel Road, Hejazi, and Reincarnate are now trained by Tim Yakteen, and Maryland-based trainer Britany Russell is Fort Warren’s new conditioner. 

Loggins, my original top ranked Derby contender, has not had any published workouts this year and has been removed from my list. 

Kentucky Derby 2023 Points Race Results

Jerome – Jan. 7 – Winner: Lugan Knight

Early speed dominated this one and Lugan Knight never looked back. Michael McCarthy’s Goldencents colt had inside position with Arctic Arrogance breathing down his neck. He held a short half-length lead for at least six panels, and the latter got on even terms and looked like he would edge clear. That did not happen. Lugan Knight was determined and dug in and prevailed by a half-length, and Arctic Arrogance was seven lengths clear of show finisher General Banker. Neural Network was a flat 4th as the second betting choice, and he was followed by Andiamo a Firenze, Narciso Dali, and Vanenzan Day. The final time was 1:37.77. Was this one-turn mile a strong Derby prep? Probably not. Lugan Knight looks like a sprinter and Arctic Arrogance is an overachieving New York-bred.   

Sham – Jan. 8 – Winner: Reincarnate

Speed Boat Beach was a late scratch, and with the expected pacesetter out, the race shape was a mad scramble. Reincarnate, the least fancied of three Baffert trainees, dueled early with stretch out maiden winner Spun Intended. Solid favorite National Treasure sat behind those two and was hemmed in by surface switcher Packs a Wahlop. Newgate trailed the compact field. Reincarnate edged clear, Spun Intended and Packs a Wahlop dropped back, and Newgate was unwinding from last. National Treasure was still stuck inside. Reincarnate dug in gamely and withstood the onslaught of his stablemate Newgate to prevail by a neck. National Treasure was less than a length behind those two and he was a country mile in front of Packs a Wahlop. Spun Intended pulled up in the stretch and walked into the van. Lots to unpack here. The top three stablemates were separated by less than a length. Reincarnate showed determination under Hernandez and Newgate closed nicely under Dettori. As for National Treasure, he may have been best. Johnny V had nowhere to go for much of the running, and he seemed to want more ground while galloping out nicely. Packs a Wahlop will return to turf and hopefully Spun Intended is okay. The final time was 1:35.87.   

Lecomte – Jan. 21 – Winner: Instant Coffee

Instant Coffee is a solid closer for Brad Cox. He raced wide and did not get a great setup in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, but he won that Derby points race anyway. He did get pace help in this spot. Echo Again carved out solid splits before fading. Bromley chased him and threw in the towel as well. Instant Coffee sat back in last place in this 6-horse field, and he rallied outside in the stretch and won easily by 2 1/2 lengths as the betting favorite. Two Phil’s tried to go with the winner but could not match strides with that runner. He was clearly second best. Confidence Game chased the pace and was best of the rest in 3rd. Denington was a clear 4th, Bromley was 9+ lengths behind that runner, and Echo Again pulled up and walked off. The final time was 1:45.12. 

Southwest – Jan. 28 – Winner: Arabian Knight

Arabian Knight dominated this one and sure has a ton of raw ability. He was making his stakes debut in his second career start, and he did everything right. He scooted to the front with ease and was gliding effortlessly over the sloppy surface. He relaxed on the lead, stayed clear throughout, and powered away to score by 5 1/2 lengths under John Velazquez. Red Route One rallied from last to finish a clear 2nd, and pace chaser Frosted Departure was best of the rest at 46-1. Sun Thunder showed mild late interest in 4th and Jace’s Road, Corona Bolt, El Tomate, and Western Ghent also ran. The final time was 1:43.50 and this was a fast and visually impressive effort. The winner might be the early Derby favorite after this strong performance, but he will have to move out of the Baffert barn by Feb. 28 in order to be eligible to earn Derby points. 

Withers – Feb. 4 – Winner: Hit Show 

Arctic Arrogance set the pace as expected but Prove Right hounded him from the outset, and Andiamo a Firenze was pressing the issue as well. Hit Show was loving the skirmish up front and was always traveling sweetly under Manny Franco. He had the measure of the leaders and hit the front and widened in the lane to score by 5 1/2 lengths. Arctic Arrogance was clearly second best and that is a recurring theme for the Linda Rice trainee. He was second best in the Remsen and Jerome as well. General Banker was 14+ clear of Andiamo a Firenze and Prove Right. Jungfrau was far back in 6th and Ninetyprcentmaddie eased and walked off. The final time was 1:54.71.  

Holy Bull – Feb. 4 – Winner: Rocket Can 

This was a slow renewal of the Holy Bull. Mr Bob showed the way early but he retreated after six panels. Rocket Can sat a wide stalking trip from the outside post for the productive Alvarado/Mott team. He got to the front in the lane and held off his last striding stablemate Shadow Dragon to score by a bit less than a length. The latter was motoring from the back of the pack and he was clear of inside stalker West Coast Cowboy. Legacy Isle was a flat 4th and Il Miracolo, Lord Miles, beaten favorite Cyclone Mischief, and Mr Bob rounded out the order of finish. The final time was 1:44.97. 

Robert Lewis – Feb. 4 – Winner: Newgate

This all-Baffert Derby prep featured a quartet of stablemates. Arabian Lion set the pace from the rail and longshot Hard to Figure chased from 2nd. Maiden Worcester stalked from 3rd and even money favorite Newgate trailed. Arabian Lion was the first to crack, and Hard to Figure struck the front, but Newgate rallied outside under Frankie Dettori and got the job done by a neck. Hard to Figure was a clear 2nd and Worcester was well clear of a fading Arabian Lion. The final time was 1:43.11 and it was hard to learn much about this compact group. One thing is certain. Arabian Lion is a sprinter. 

Sam F. Davis – Feb. 11 – Winner: Litigate

This did not seem like the strongest edition of the Sam F. Davis. Remsen hero Dubyuhnell was the 2-1 favorite but he had early trouble and never got involved. Zydeceaux made much of the running from the outside post at 43-1, but he weakened with a furlong to go. Litigate, making just his third lifetime start for Pletcher, stalked the pace from an outer post, and he kept on coming in the lane and drove clear by 1 1/4 lengths under Luis Saez. Groveland stalked the pace and was second best, and Classic Car Wash edged Classic Legacy for the show. Zydeceuax was next and six runners finished behind him (Laver, Dreaming of Kona, Dubyuhnell, Prairie Hawk, Worthington, Champions Dream). The final time was 1:44.83. 

El Camino Real Derby – Feb. 11 – Winner: Chase the Chaos  

Local hero Chase the Chaos got the job done from off the pace. Two others had a look. Harcyn chased the pace and loomed a danger but was outkicked. My top choice Gilmore was bet down to favoritism. He tracked inside but Chase the Chaos was traveling better late and scored by a length and a half. Gilmore was a length better than Harcyn for the runner-up spot. Passarando missed the show by a head in an even effort, and he was followed by Nullarbor, Sea Dog, In Honor of Autism, and Happy Does. The final time was 1:51.68. The winner picked up an automatic berth into Preakness 2023. 

Risen Star – Feb. 18 – Winner: Angel of Empire 

The Risen Star was a quality race in 2022 with Epicenter rolling to an impressive victory. The 2023 renewal seemed a bit average. Determinedly was determined to set the pace but he was nowhere at the end. Actually, all of the forwardly placed runners whiffed. Angel of Empire sat back in 9th place and rallied outside in the stretch and got up late to win by a length. Sun Thunder rallied to the fore from 12th place and was outkicked by the winner. Two Phil’s stalked outside, led briefly, and edged my top choice Tapit’s Conquest for the show. The latter probably would have been closer with a better trip. He was widest of all on the backside and in the lane. He had a big look in the stretch but flattened out late. Single Ruler rallied from 11th to finish a clear 5th at 42-1. Harlocap weakened to 6th, and slow starting maiden Crupi found his best stride too late. Curly Jack, beaten chalk Victory Formation, Shaq Diesel, Silver Heist, Prvate Creed, Quiet as Midnight, and a fading Determinedly also ran. The final time was 1:51.47. Angel of Empire liked the added ground of this race.  


Kentucky Derby 2023 Points Race Results

Iroquois (10-4-3-2-1) – Sept. 17 – Winner: Curly Jack ($23.66)

Champagne (10-4-3-2-1) – Oct. 1 – Winner: Blazing Sevens ($19.00)

American Pharoah (10-4-3-2-1) – Oct. 8 – Winner: Cave Rock ($2.80)

Breeders’ Futurity (10-4-3-2-1) – Oct. 8 – Winner: Forte ($10.86)

BC Juvenile (30-12-9-6-3) – Nov. 4 – Winner: Forte ($12.04)

Ky Jockey Club (10-4-3-2-1) – Nov. 26 – Winner: Instant Coffee ($5.08)

Remsen (10-4-3-2-1) – Dec. 3 – Winner: Dubyuhnell ($10.00)

Los Al Futurity (10-4-3-2-1) – Dec. 17 – Winner: Practical Move ($23.20)

Springboard Mile (10-4-3-2-1) – Dec. 17 – Winner: Wildatlanticstorm ($32.00)

Gun Runner (10-4-3-2-1) – Dec. 26 – Winner: Jace’s Road ($6.80)

Smarty Jones (10-4-3-2-1) – Jan. 1- Winner: Victory Formation ($3.20)

Jerome (10-4-3-2-1) – Jan. 7 – Winner: Lugan Knight ($9.10)

Sham (10-4-3-2-1) – Jan. 8 – Winner: Reincarnate ($35.00)

Lecomte (20-8-6-4-2) – Jan. 21 – Winner: Instant Coffee ($4.60)

Southwest (20-8-6-4-2) – Jan. 28 – Winner: Arabian Knight ($2.80)

Withers (20-8-6-4-2) – Feb. 4 – Winner: Hit Show ($4.60)

Holy Bull (20-8-6-4-2) – Feb. 4 – Winner: Rocket Can ($7.20)

Robert Lewis (20-8-6-4-2) – Feb. 4 – Winner: Newgate ($4.00)

Sam F. Davis (20-8-6-4-2) – Feb. 11 – Winner: Litigate ($7.60)

El Camino Real Derby (10-4-3-2-1) – Feb. 11 – Winner: Chase the Chaos ($10.40)

Risen Star (50-20-15-10-5) – Feb. 18 – Winner: Angel of Empire ($29.40)

Rebel (50-20-15-10-5) – Feb. 25

Fountain of Youth (50-20-15-10-5) – March 4

Gotham (50-20-15-10-5) – March 4 

San Felipe (50-20-15-10-5) – March 4

John Battaglia Memorial (20-8-6-4-2) – March 4

Tampa Bay Derby (50-20-15-10-5) – March 11 

UAE Derby (100-40-30-20-10) – March 25

Louisiana Derby (100-40-30-20-10) – March 25 

Jeff Ruby Steaks (100-40-20-10) – March 25

Sunland Derby (50-20-15-10-5) – March 26 

Florida Derby (100-40-30-20-10) – April 1 

Arkansas Derby (100-40-30-20-10) – April 1 

Wood Memorial (100-40-30-20-10) – April 8

Blue Grass (100-40-30-20-10) – April 8

SA Derby (100-40-30-20-10) – April 8

Lexington (20-8-6-4-2) – April 15 


Top 24 Kentucky Derby Points Leaders (thru 2-24-23)

54 Points: Angel of Empire

40 Points: Forte

32 Points: Instant Coffee

24 Points: Sun Thunder

23 Points: Two Phil’s

20 Points: Rocket Can

20 Points: Hit Show

20 Points: Litigate

17 Points: Curly Jack

16 Points: Blazing Sevens

16 Points: Arctic Arrogance

15 Points: Jace’s Road

13 Points: Red Route One

10 Points: Victory Formation

10 Points: Dubyuhnell

10 Points: Practical Move

10 Points: Lugan Knight

10 Points: Tapit’s Conquest

09 Points: General Banker

08 Points: Shadow Dragon

08 Points: Denington

07 Points: Hayes Strike

07 Points: Andiamo a Firenze

07 Points: Confidence Game 

Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2023 Contenders (2-24-23)

1 -ARABIAN KNIGHT (Uncle Mo – Borealis Night, by Astrology) – Trainer: Bob Baffert

He romped in his sprint bow at Keeneland on the Breeders’ Cup Saturday undercard, and made short work of the competition on a sloppy, sealed track in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Jan. 28. His first work since the Southwest was an easy 3f move at SA on Feb. 13. 

2 -FORTE (Violence – Queen Caroline, by Blame) – Trainer: Todd Pletcher

He was the deserving juvenile champ after Grade 1 wins in the Hopeful, Breeders’ Futurity, and BC Juvenile. He stretched out and elevated his game in his last two dirt routes at Keeneland. He has worked five times since Jan. 21 including a recent 5f bullet at Palm Beach Downs on Feb. 18. The Fountain of Youth Stakes on March 4 is his next target.  

3 – CAVE ROCK (Arrogate – Georgie’s Angel, by Bellamy Road) – Trainer: Bob Baffert

This Arrogate colt used his early speed effectively in 2022. He was sharp in the Del Mar Futurity and American Pharaoh, but was washy and not quite himself in the BC Juvenile. He was pressed early by 70-1 outsider Hurricane J in the BC, and he put that one away rather easily but could not hold off Forte in the lane. He returned to the worktab Feb. 13 and had another half-mile move Feb. 20.  

4 – GIANT MISCHIEF (Into Mischief – Vertical Oak, by Giant Oak) – Trainer: Brad Cox

This one captured his first two sprint starts from off the pace, and I made him my top choice in the Springboard Mile. In the latter race, he lunged at the start and was last early. He rallied wide to finish a clear 2nd, and I wonder what might have been with a clean getaway. I am not sure how far this one wants to go, but he definitely has ability and deserves another chance in a two turn points race. He will get that chance in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on February 25.   

5 – INSTANT COFFEE (Bolt d’Oro – Follow No One, by Uncle Mo) – Trainer: Brad Cox 

He is not the flashiest performer but he gets the job done. He raced wide was grinding away in the lane while best in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. There was not much pace in that race, but that was not the case in the Lecomte. He got plenty of pace help in the latter event and he rolled home from last-to-first to score by 2 1/2 lengths. He skipped the Risen Star and figures to make his next start in the LA Derby at Fair Grounds on March 25. His first move since the Lecomte was an easy half-mile breeze at Fair Grounds on Feb. 18. 

6 – FAUSTIN (Curlin – Hard Not to Like, by Hard Spun) – Trainer: Bob Baffert

He sat in midpack and rallied for the win in his 6f bow at SA late last year, and it sure looked like he was just getting warmed up at that sprint distance. He got another furlong to work with in the San Vicente (G2) Jan. 29, and he was gaining on his fleet stablemate Havnameltdown in a clear runner-up finish that day. He really wants two turns and should be all set to route next time after two sprints under his belt. He drilled back-to-back bullets on Feb. 12 and Feb. 18. 

7 – BLAZING SEVENS (Good Magic – Trophy Girl, by Warrior’s Reward) – Trainer: Chad Brown

Chad Brown gave this one a nice 2-year-old foundation last year. He won his summer bow at Saratoga, and checked in 3rd in the Hopeful (G1) at that same venue second time out. He rallied outside and beat Verifying in the slop in the Champagne (G1), and ended up a clear 4th after a troubled beginning in the BC Juvenile (G1). He has not missed a beat on the Payson Park worktab since Jan. 21, and worked his way up to five panels in a bullet move Feb. 18. He is probably fit enough to run in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park on March 4. 

8 – VERIFYING (Justify – Diva Delete, by Repent) – Trainer: Brad Cox

This one is going places for Brad Cox. Last year, he won his bow, completed the exacta in the Champagne (G1), and had an uncomfortable start when finishing 6th of 10 in the BC Juvenile (G1). He ran great in his first start at Oaklawn Park this year. He was a sharp pressing winner in a flat mile optional claimer Jan. 14, and the 2-3 finishers were next-out winners. He goes next in the Rebel Stakes (G2) on Feb. 25, and he is the 2-1 morning line favorite. 

9 – NATIONAL TREASURE (Quality Road – Treasure, by Medaglia d’Oro) – Trainer: Bob Baffert

Smartly wired the field in his Del Mar Sprint bow. Cave Rock had his number in the American Pharoah, but he ran quite well in a clear runner-up effort. He was best of the rest in 3rd in the BC Juvenile, and completed the trifecta again in the Sham Stakes. He is a grinder with tactical speed and will probably win one of these Derby points races if he gets into a nice rhythm. He has worked three times since the Sham including a 5f move on Feb. 19. 

10 – HEJAZI (Bernardini – G Note, by Medaglia d’Oro) – Trainer: Tim Yakteen

The $3.55 million colt is a maiden no longer. He landed the place in his first two starts, and took on his talented stablemates Cave Rock and National Treasure in the American Pharoah, and he chased the pace and was best of the rest in 3rd. Cave Rock and National Treasure returned to finish 2-3 in the BC Juvenile. He tuned back and returned to the maiden ranks, and he smartly went all the way from the inside post at 6 1/2 furlongs at SA on Jan. 15. He is nominated to the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 4. 

11 – SKINNER (Curlin – Winding Way, by Malibu Moon) – Trainer: John Shirreffs

He raced three times last year without winning. Two of those were G1’s and he did land the show in the Del Mar Futurity. His Feb. 12 return was excellent. He was back in the special weight ranks, and he sat back while racing wide, and kicked away to win by a strong 3 1/4 lengths. That was a fast flat mile event and he found his best stride late. He has a solid 2-year-old foundation and really improved in his first sophomore outing, and might be ready to return to the stakes ranks for patient trainer Shirreffs. 

Next Nine: (12) Angel of Empire, (13) Reincarnate,(14) Hit Show, (15) Red Route One, (16) Practical Move, (17) Arctic Arrogance, (18) Tapit Trice, (19) Two Phil’s, (20) Denington 

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