Arabian Knight was poised to become one of the Kentucky Derby favourites.
The colt won his debut race in stunning fashion, going gate to wire over the Keeneland surface. The race was only seven furlongs, but Arabian Knight strolled home in front by more than seven lengths and appeared to have more left in the tank.
That November 5th victory led to an entry in the Grade III Southwest Stakes on January 28th, with an eye on a final, 100-point Kentucky Derby prep afterward. Arabian Knight was facing far stiffer competition in the Southwest, but the result was the same- the son of Uncle Mo went straight to the front and stayed there, winning by daylight.
You can check the current updated list of contenders here: twinspires.com/kentuckyderby/contenders
It appeared that no one had yet seen the bottom of this colt’s talent. Both the Grade I Arkansas Derby and the Grade I Santa Anita Derby were discussed as possible next starts for Arabian Knight. He was among the favorites in the two most recent pools of the Kentucky Derby Future Wagers.
It came as a surprise and a disappointment to many, therefore, when trainer Tim Yakteen announced that Arabian Knight was no longer targeting the Kentucky Derby at all. The colt had missed some training and, after a six furlong workout on March 3rd, Yakteen noted that he wasn’t progressing the way that everyone had hoped. Instead, Arabian Knight will be rested through the spring, with the hope of returning to the racetrack in late summer or early autumn.
There is no doubt that the odds in the Future Wagers, and the final Derby preps, will shift with his defection. The question is how they will change, and how dramatic it will be.
There is only one Future Wagers pool left, and that will take place at the end of March and the beginning of April.
At this point, it seems most likely that Eclipse Champion Two-Year-Old Male Forte, who has been favored in the last two pools, will continue to be the heavy favorite. Forte made his seasonal debut in the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes and he mowed through his competition as though they were standing still. Trainer Todd Pletcher intends to give Forte his final Kentucky Derby tune-up in the Grade I Florida Derby on April 1st, a race which he has won on six occasions.
The loss of Arabian Knight will also probably cause the prices on other favored entries, such as Grade III Tampa Bay Derby winner Tapit Trice and Grade II San Felipe Stakes winner Practical Move, to plummet as long as they perform well in their final Kentucky Derby preps.
The two races most directly affected by the withdrawal of Arabian Knight are the two races that were under consideration for him: the aforementioned Arkansas Derby and Santa Anita Derby.
Right now, the Santa Anita Derby looks to belong to Practical Move. Having won the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity in addition to the San Felipe, the son of Practical Joke appears to have a stronghold on this year’s West Coast contingent. However, a challenge could come from the Japanese-based Mandarin Hero, a son of Shanghai Bobby who looks to earn his slot in the Kentucky Derby gate the old-fashioned way, rather than utilizing the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Among the probables (as of this writing) for the Arkansas Derby are Grade III Holy Bull winner Rocket Can (who, most recently, was runner-up to Forte in the Fountain of Youth) and Grade II Risen Star Stakes winner Angel of Empire, who are likely to be highly regarded by the betting public. Red Route One, who was second in the Grade II Rebel Stakes, will probably also be a top choice, particularly if a lot of horses with early speed enter the race.