Shortly after 4-and-up dirt routers contest the Pegasus World Cup, their 3-year-old counterparts will look to score points toward a different Grade 1, $3 million event: the Kentucky Derby.
Arabian Knight is the 1-1 morning-line favorite for the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3). Post time from Oaklawn is 5:57 p.m. EST, with FanDuel TV to show the 1 1/16-mile race.
Click here for Oaklawn entries and results.
The Southwest is part of a stacked day of racing that includes Gulfstream Park’s Pegasus card and graded stakes at Aqueduct, Oaklawn, Sam Houston and Santa Anita. Click here for a guide to the Pegasus and other graded stakes for older runners.
Kentucky Derby points are on the line in the Southwest on a 20-8-6-4-2 scale. Eight of nine starters are eligible for those points, with Arabian Knight being the lone exception due to trainer Bob Baffert’s Churchill Downs suspension.
Arabian Knight debuted a winner Nov. 5 at Keeneland on the Breeders’ Cup Classic undercard. The Uncle Mo colt carried a six-length lead into the stretch of a seven-furlong race and was wrapped up in the final yards of his 7 1/4-length score.
After a steady work schedule at Santa Anita, Arabian Knight ships to Arkansas for his 3-year-old bow. Jockey John Velazquez stays aboard a colt that garnered $2.3 million at auction from owner Zedan Racing Stables.
Trainer Brad Cox won the Lecomte Stakes (G3) last Saturday with Instant Coffee. He sends out a pair of Kentucky Derby hopefuls Saturday in Jace’s Road (4-1) and Corona Bolt (6-1).
Jace’s Road owns a prior Derby trail win with his score in Fair Grounds’ Gun Runner Stakes on Dec. 26. He also hit the board in Churchill Downs’ Iroquois Stakes (G3) with a third-place showing.
Corona Bolt brings a 2-for-2 record into the Southwest, having won the Sugar Bowl Stakes on the same card in which Jace’s Road won the Gun Runner. He adds 2 1/2 furlongs of distance from the Sugar Bowl, where he won sprinting at six.
Sun Thunder (10-1) broke his maiden on second asking New Year’s Eve, also at Oaklawn, for trainer Kenny McPeek. Steve Asmussen trains Red Route One (10-1), whose fourth-place Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) finish Nov. 26 was flattered by winner Instant Coffee’s Lecomte score.
Following the Southwest on Oaklawn’s Derby trail are the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) on Feb. 25 and the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 1.
Smarty Jones in 2004 won both the Southwest Stakes and the Kentucky Derby, 12 years after Lil E. Tee preceded a 1992 Derby score with a third-place effort in the Southwest. Essential Quality in 2021 won the Southwest as part of a campaign that ended with champion 3-year-old male honors.
Here is a look at the field for the 2023 Southwest Stakes (trainers and jockeys in parentheses) with morning-line odds:
1. Sun Thunder (Kenny McPeek, David Cabrera), 10-1
2. Corona Bolt (Brad Cox, Flavien Prat), 6-1
3. Jace’s Road (Brad Cox, Joe Talamo), 4-1
4. Western Ghent (D. Wayne Lukas, Cristian Torres), 20-1
5. Frosted Departure (Kenny McPeek, Francisco Arrieta), 15-1
6. Arabian Knight (Bob Baffert, John Velazquez), 1-1
7. Red Route One (Steve Asmussen, Ricardo Santana Jr.), 10-1
8. Hit Show, SCR
9. El Tomate (Miguel Silva, Orlando Mojica), 30-1
Visit Horse Racing Nation’s free past performances page for more information on the Southwest Stakes and other races of note at Oaklawn and Sam Houston.
Kentucky Derby points top 10
1. Forte, 40
2. Instant Coffee, 32
3. Curly Jack, 17
4. Blazing Sevens, 16
5. Jace’s Road, 13
6. Victory Formation, 10
7. Dubyuhnell, 10
8. Practical Move, 10
9. Lugan Knight, 10
10. Two Phil’s, 8
Kentucky Derby trail links
Arabian Knight, the even-money Southwest Stakes favorite, is the most lightly raced horse trainer Bob Baffert has brought to Oaklawn for a Kentucky Derby prep.
Florent Geroux, regular rider of Corona Bolt, will be at Gulfstream Park on Saturday to ride Cyberknife in the Pegasus World Cup. The Southwest “looks like the perfect race to get him started for the Kentucky Derby trail, for sure,” Geroux said of Corona Bolt.
Reinier Macatangay ranks trainer Steve Asmussen’s top five Kentucky Derby prospects, a list that includes Southwest Stakes starter Red Route One. Macatangay said he seems likely to make the Kentucky Derby as a reliable closer who can keep hitting the board in points races.
Hit Show was entered in the Southwest Stakes for trainer Brad Cox but will reroute to next weekend’s Withers Stakes (G3) instead.
There have been two proven ways to win the Southwest at Oaklawn. For horses trained by Baffert, it has been go to the front and stay there. For others, it has been closing from off the pace.
Speaking of Baffert, his horses face a Feb. 28 deadline to be moved to a different trainer to be eligible for Kentucky Derby points.
Southwest starters Arabian Knight and Corona Bolt are among 12 of J. Keeler Johnson’s watch list horses in action this weekend.
Multiple Grade 1 winner Forte, champion 2-year-old male of 2022, has begun stepping up preparations for his expected sophomore debut in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) on March 4 at Gulfstream Park.
Cox says, “it’s going to be tough to get” Breeders’ Futurity (G1) runner-up Loggins to the Kentucky Derby but that he will be nominated to the Triple Crown.
The Kentucky Derby hopefuls work tab offers details on the latest published works by prospective contenders. This report includes horses who have odds of 200-1 or shorter in our latest report on Las Vegas Derby futures.
Kentucky Oaks trail
Kentucky Oaks points are also on the line for 3-year-old fillies Saturday at Oaklawn and Santa Anita. Here is a look at the day’s two Oaks preps, both of which award points on a 20-8-6-4-2 scale and can be seen on FanDuel TV.
3:10 p.m. – $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes, Oaklawn, 1 1/16 miles
Defining Purpose (6-5) won the local Year’s End Stakes on New Year’s Eve, one start after finishing fifth at Churchill Downs in the Golden Rod Stakes (G2). Jockey David Cabrera has the mount for trainer Kenny McPeek on the Cross Traffic filly. Todd Fincher trains Olivia Twist (2-1), whose 3-for-3 record includes a Trapeze Stakes triumph Dec. 17 at Remington Park. Wet Paint (9-2) returns to dirt racing for trainer Brad Cox after a runner-up effort Dec. 14 vs. allowance foes over the all-weather track at Turfway Park.
Related: Oaks points are in play as 6 fillies face off in Martha Washington | Head to Head: Handicapping the 2023 Martha Washington
3:59 p.m. – $200,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (G3), Santa Anita, one mile
Faiza (8-5), winner of Los Alamitos’ Starlet Stakes (G1) on Dec. 10, is favored in her 3-year-old bow but is ineligible for Oaks points due to trainer Bob Baffert’s Churchill Downs suspension. Jockey Ramon Vazquez will ride the Girvin filly. John Shirreffs trains Justique (9-5), who aims to make the grade in her first start since taking the Desi Arnaz Stakes on Nov. 19 at Del Mar. Pride of the Nile (3-1) finished as runner-up in the Starlet, only a head shy of Faiza, for trainer Doug O’Neill.
Related: Justique, Faiza lead Kentucky Oaks points prep field
Kentucky Oaks points top 10
1. Wonder Wheel, 40
2. The Alys Look, 24
3. Occult, 20
4. Leave No Trace, 15
5. Pretty Mischievous, 13
6. Chop Chop, 12
7. Ice Dancing, 12
8. Raging Sea, 11
9. Gambling Girl, 11
10. Hoosier Philly, 10