It promises to be a pivotal week for the Bob Baffert yard, as the next seven days will determine which of his runners will be on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. It was announced over the weekend that a District Court Judge in Louisville has denied a motion by the Hall of Famer, which would have enabled him to enter horses in the prestigious race at Churchill Downs.
Therefore, decisions will now be made surrounding some of his key runners, as they will need to switch yards if they are to earn qualifying points to gain entry to the Kentucky Derby.
So, which horses are showing prowess on the 2023 road to the Kentucky Derby prep races and can they stand excellent chances in the race at Churchill Downs?
News about Baffert’s rejected motion has come just in time for the declarations of the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. In total, there are four Baffert runners in the field, but all will run under different trainers in New York. Hejazi will run for trainer Tim Yakteen, and could be a solid contender to get points on the leaderboard.
The three-year-old broke his maiden in strong style over 6 ½ furlongs at Santa Anita in the middle of January, as he scored a speed rating of 104 when finishing ahead of Worcester. Hejazi has only finished outside the top two on one occasion from four starts, with that coming on his only career start over 1 1/16 miles in the G1 American Pharoah.
Arabian Knight is certainly the horse from the Baffert yard that many bettors are keeping a very close eye on, as the three-year-old has looked like a potential superstar to this point. Sired by Uncle Mo, Arabian Knight has won on both career starts to this point, which included an eight-length demolition on debut at Keeneland in early November.
He was stepped up in distance for the first time at Oaklawn Park at the end of January, and he won very impressively from Red Route One in the G3 Southwest Stakes. That performance scored a speed rating of 97, and it will be fascinating to see what’s next for this talented three-year-old in 2023.
Carmel Road is also expected to run in the Gotham Stakes under a different trainer’s name. The three-year-old has won once from four career starts, but he has regularly posted encouraging speed figures. His only no-show to date came in Grade 1 company, as he could only finish 13th in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity. However, he bounced back from that setback in very encouraging fashion in the G2 Los Alamitos Futurity.
On that occasion, he finished with a speed figure of 91, as he took second behind Practical Move on his second start over 1 1/16 miles. It’s likely that he will be lining up in the Gotham Stakes under Yakteen’s name.
Cave Rock is still considered to be one of the outstanding Derby contenders in the Baffert yard. However, we are yet to find out what the plan for the three-year-old is in 2023 with the Derby in mind. Cave Rock has won three from four career starts, which included victory in the American Pharoah last October. That success saw him finish over five lengths clear of National Treasure.
However, he was unable to solidify that form at the Breeders’ Cup in early November, as he finished just over a length behind Forte. But, we still expect it to be a different story when the two meet at a different track, as Keeneland is certainly a course that suits Forte more so that Cave Rock. It will be fascinating to see where this three-year-old lands for his next career starts, and which trainer he will be representing.