The first leg of the U.S. Triple Crown is edging ever nearer, with Churchill Downs set to host the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 6. This year’s race will once again be one of the most-watched of the years, with the 2023 crop of three-year-olds looking to emulate legends before them and landing victory in the prestigious Grade 1.
There is also a growing feeling that we could see a Triple Crown challenger in 2023, with some of the top selections in the betting looking primed for challenges in the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, as well as the Kentucky Derby.
One of the main contenders to achieve that feat and be part of the Kentucky Derby future wager pool is Arabian Knight.
Performances on Track
Arabian Knight has been near the top of the betting for the Kentucky Derby before even making his racecourse debut. The star was brought for a massive fee by owners Zedan Racing Stables and has been in training with Bob Baffert ever since.
We finally got our first look at Arabian Knight on Breeders’ Cup weekend, as the two-year-old eased home in the maiden company to win over seven furlongs from Determinedly by a widening eight-length margin.
Arabian Knight finally returned to the track to make his debut as a three-year-old at the end of January, and he looked talented once again in sloppy conditions at Oaklawn Park. He landed victory in testing conditions in the G3 Southwest Stakes over 1 1/16 miles to achieve a speed rating of 97. That form has been boosted since, with Red Route One coming out to finish second in the G2 Rebel Stakes behind Confidence Game, achieving a career-best speed figure of 95.
A key change over the previous couple of weeks has been the barn change, with Arabian Knight leaving the Bob Baffert yard to take up training with Tim Yakteen. This was a decision made after Baffert’s ban at Churchill Downs wasn’t overturned, meaning that in 2023 the Hall of Famer will once again not be able to enter horses, nor earn qualifying points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Arabian Knight is yet to pick up any points, meaning that his place in the race at Churchill Downs is yet to be determined. However, we will likely see the three-year-old back on track in the very near future, with both the G1 Arkansas Derby and G1 Santa Anita Derby likely to be among the races that connections will be looking at.
However, some fans will have concerns surrounding the barn change, as horses that made the same switch in 2022 were extremely disappointing in the Kentucky Derby. Among those was Taiba, who could only finish 12th at Churchill Downs. Meanwhile, Messier was also switched to the Yakteen yard before the Derby last year, and he struggled into 15th place.
Forte Holds Leading Claims
The only other current runner that could stand an excellent chance of achieving the Triple Crown dream at present is Forte. The Todd Pletcher runner moved to the top of the Kentucky Derby leaderboard in sensational fashion on his return to action at the start of March, as he finished a four-length winner of the G2 Fountain of Youth from Rocket Can.
Forte didn’t appear to miss a step, despite being out of action since landing the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November. His return run scored a speed figure of 99, which was only slightly lower than the rating that he achieved when dispatching Cave Rock in the Juvenile at Keeneland. The win saw him move to the top of the betting for the Derby this year, and there seems to be even more improvement likely over the coming months.