Southwest Stakes Odds & Picks – Is Arabian Knight the Kentucky Derby Favorite?
- The $750,000 Grade 3 Southwest Stakes is Saturday at Oaklawn Park
- Among the early Kentucky Derby favorites, Arabian Knight makes his second start in Hot Springs
- Is there betting value on or against Arabian Knight in this Derby prep?
Arabian Knight cost $2.3 million. In his debut on the undercard of November’s Breeders Cup Classic, he looked every bit the price spent on a horse expected to be among the Triple Crown contenders. His second career race comes Saturday in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
Last weekend Instant Coffee won the Lecomte Stakes, the first Derby qualifying race that offers 20 points to the winner. The Southwest is the second in that category, but Arabian Knight is not eligible for qualifying points.
Trainer Bob Baffert is banned from Churchill Downs, where the Kentucky Derby is run, and any horse under his care can not earn qualifying points. Arabian Knight will need to be transferred to a different trainer a month from now assuming he has aspirations of roses on the first Saturday in May.
Let’s look at Arabian Knight, and his eight rivals, and see where a wager may make sense.
2023 Southwest Stakes Odds
|Red Route One||+1000|
Odds as of January 25.
Saturday’s feature race is slated to be run just before 6pm EST. The mile-and-a-sixteenth dirt test has been contested since the 1960s. Lil E Tee finished third in 1992 and went on to win the Kentucky Derby. Smarty Jones took the Southwest and Derby in 2004. Temperatures are expected to be in the low 50s and there is a strong chance of rain. Fox Sports 2 will air the race.
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While it is reasonable to get excited about three-year-olds this time of year, it is worth noting they tend to be very lightly raced. Additionally, some horses peak early and never get better, while others make a big jump from the age of two to three.
Let’s look at several contenders.
Arabian Knight looks the part
The price tag was gaudy, and Arabian Knight’s first race was impressive. That said, it was a one-turn race against maidens. The level of competition picks up significantly Saturday, and not all horses run around two turns as well as they do one.
Arabian Knight is owned by Zedan Racing, who also campaigned Medina Spirit, and currently races Taiba. Arabian Knight may be the next great one, but that is far from a sure bet one race in.
Brad Cox’s barn is loaded
Any glance at Kentucky Derby futures prices makes clear that trainer Brad Cox is likely to have a big impact on this year’s Triple Crown.
The 2020 Eclipse Award winner for outstanding trainer won his first Kentucky Derby when Mandaloun was awarded the roses in 2021 after Medina Spirit was disqualified, leading to Baffert’s current issues.
Cox has Jace’s Road, Corona Bolt, and Hit Show in the Southwest. Jace’s Road has two wins in four starts including the day after Christmas in Fair Ground’s Gun Runner Stakes.
Jace’s Road has two losses, both to top Derby contenders, and probably can be excused for running poorly in October when he acted up before the Steet Sense Stakes in Kentucky. He is a $510,000 son of Florida Derby winner Quality Road.
Corona Bolt is two-for-two and will be trying two turns for the first time on Saturday. It’s hard not to like his dominant performance in December’s Sugar Bowl Stakes in New Orleans.
In his debut, Corona Bolt came from just off the pace, and then held off challengers down the stretch. He is a $225,000 son of Bolt d’Oro.
Hit Show is owned by Gary and Mary West, who have been fortunate to be in the winner’s circle with many top equine athletes including Maximum Security, who finished first in the Kentucky Derby but was disqualified. Hit Show has two wins in three career starts. This is his stakes debut. He has been the favorite in all three of his races, including a two-turn victory against optional claimers in December. He is a $75,000 son of Pacific Classic winner Candy Ride.
Can I interest you in a Steve Asmussen longshot?
No trainer has won more races in U.S. history than Steve Asmussen. While Baffert won the Southwest Stakes last year, and Cox took it two years ago, Asmussen is a three-time champ including Silver Prospector in 2020. Two of Asmussen’s three victories have come with Ricardo Santana riding.
Asmussen and Santana send out Red Route One. He has only a single victory in five starts, and that came on the turf in August at Saratoga. However, his last three races have come when facing steep competition, and he missed by only a length-and-a-half last time out against Instant Coffee.
A homebred from Winchell Thoroughbreds out of Breeders Cup Classic winner Gun Runner, Red Route One needs to improve, but may. His father was decent as a two-year-old, good as a three-year-old, and one of the best older horses we have seen in recent memory.
Southwest Stakes Best Bet
If you think Arabian Knight is special, this could be the best price you get on him for the foreseeable future. That said, Corona Bolt was equally as impressive last time out, and that came in a stakes race. Cox and jockey Flavien Prat are a dynamic duo that have hit at better than 35% over the last year. At +600, the price is right.
Pick: Corona Bolt (+600)
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