Arabian Knight was, up until March 12th, one of the leading contenders for the Kentucky Derby.
The sales-topping son of Uncle Mo is undefeated in two starts, having won his maiden in November and then decimating the field in the Grade III Southwest Stakes.
At the time, Arabian Knight was still under Bob Baffert’s care and was thus ineligible for Kentucky Derby qualifying points, but few saw that as a reason to avoid naming him as a top Derby contender. You can check here the whole list of current contenders: https://www.twinspires.com/kentuckyderby/contenders
Arabian Knight, along with most of Baffert’s other top three-year-olds, was transferred to Tim Yakteen’s barn and was expected to earn a slot in the Kentucky Derby following a top performance in one of the 100-point prep races.
However, it was not to be. Arabian Knight missed some training, and after a workout on March 3rd, Yakteen was displeased with how the colt’s training was going. It was announced on March 12th that Arabian Knight was officially removed from Kentucky Derby consideration and would be given time off, hopefully resuming a racing campaign in the summer or autumn.
Who will move forward to take Arabian Knight’s place in the spotlight?
Forte was already ahead of Arabian Knight in the Kentucky Derby Future Wagers, so it is safe to assume that with one of his most highly regarded competitors out of the way, he will become an even heavier favorite for the time being.
Although Arabian Knight may have had more raw brilliance than Forte, as well as an unblemished record, Forte is easily the more accomplished and experienced of the two. The Eclipse Champion Two-Year-Old of 2022, Forte has amassed four graded stakes victories (including three Grade I wins) at three different tracks. Being a son of Violence out of a stakes-winning mare by Blame, his pedigree has a good mix of speed and stamina.
Trainer Todd Pletcher has announced that Forte’s final Kentucky Derby prep will take place in the Grade I Florida Derby.
Given the amount of hugely talented former Baffert trainees Tim Yakteen has inherited over the past two years, it seems somewhat ironic that Yakteen’s current top Derby contender is a horse he has trained all along.
Practical Move had a terrible start in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes, but he used his inherent athletic ability to hurl himself into contention and win professionally. He is no flash in the pan, either, having won the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity as a two-year-old. His sire, Practical Joke, was best running at a mile or less, but his damsire is Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex, meaning that the Kentucky Derby distance of 1 ¼ miles could be well within this colt’s scope.
Practical Move’s final Kentucky Derby prep will most likely take place in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby.
Hejazi, also a former Baffert trainee who moved to Tim Yakteen, appears to be the last hope for Arabian Knight’s owners, Zedan Racing Stables.
The colt has a lot of work to do to qualify for a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. According to the most recent Kentucky Derby leaderboard, Hejazi has only 10 qualifying points, meaning that he is currently 32nd. He would need to surpass 12 horses to draw into the field.
However, the most valuable prep races are still to be run, so it is entirely possible that Hejazi could earn his way into the Derby with an on-the-board finish in his final (as yet unannounced) prep.
The son of Bernardini out of the Medaglia d’Oro mare G Note would need to move forward quite a bit from his previous performances, though.
He was third in the Grade I American Pharoah Stakes prior to breaking his maiden but could only muster a fourth in the San Felipe.
Featured Image: Jean van der Meulen