This past Saturday at Oaklawn Park marked the start of the road to this year’s Kentucky Derby with two races on Saturday’s card acting as qualifiers for both the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks.
The Grade 3 Southwest Stakes has been won by the likes of Essential Quality before they have then gone to taste success at the Kentucky Derby later on in the year. This year the race was won by the exciting Arabian Knight who has immediately been installed as the Derby favorite.
In the Listed Martha Washington Stakes, it was Wet Paint who took home the honors and made sure that she will be one to watch in the betting ahead of the Kentucky Oaks.
The final race in our recap came in the King Cotton Stakes where Gunite was too strong for his five rivals.
Grade 3, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, open to horses aged three. Total prize pool: $750,000
A star was born in the Southwest Stakes 2023 as Bob Baffert trainee Arabian Knight cemented all of his early promises by winning this year’s renewal of the Southwest Stakes at a canter.
This was only the horses’ second run but he looked every inch the generational talent that many believe he could be.
Breaking alertly, Arabian Knight and John Velazquez quickly made their way to the front and wouldn’t look back.
Ran on a sloppy and muddy track, Velazquez was able to dictate the pace and ensured that Arabian Knight had left plenty for the finishing straight.
Arabian Knight was chased hard by the outsider of the field Frosted Departure and he maintained the pressure until the final two furlongs. From here, Frosted Departure was unable to handle the relentless pace and quickly retreated.
With Arabian Knight leaving everyone trailing in his wake, he was left clear to win by 5 widening lengths. Special credit must be given to the Steve Asmussen-trained Red Route One who finished like an express train to finish second.
Horse Race Video
Arabian Knight wins the RTKD 2023 Southwest #Horseracing #Horseracingtips #Horsesoftiktok #Horses #Horse #FYP #Sports♬ original sound – horseracingtote – horseracingtote
Whilst Arabian Knight clearly demonstrated that he was the best horse in the race, there were a few disappointing runs, most notably by Corona Bolt.
Heading into the contest, many believed that Corona Bolt would be Arabian Knight’s nearest challenger but this never materialized. Clearly impacted by either the wet underfoot conditions or the relentless gallop from the favorite, Corona Bolt could only finish 6th and has some serious questions to answer the next time he steps onto the track.
Southwest Stakes 2023 Results
- Arabian Knight -250
- Red Route One +1550
- Frosted Departure +4600
Martha Washington Stakes
Listed, 1 1/16 mile, Dirt, open to three-year-old fillies. Total prize pool: $200,000
In the Martha Washington Stakes, it was a chance for the girls to lay down a significant marker ahead of the Kentucky Oaks.
Six fillies completed the line up with many expecting the race to be between the highly promising Defining Purpose and the unbeaten Olivia Twist.
The two favorites wasted no time in getting down to it, with the two locked in matching strides as they rounded the first turn.
Heading down the back straight it was Olivia Twist who was allowed to go on with the rest of the field seemingly happy to be pulled along.
As the field approached the far turn, only a length separated the field with both Defining Purpose and Taxed closing to within half a length of the long-time leader.
As the horses rounded for home, it was clear that the petrol gauge had run out on Olivia Twist and she quickly drifted back through the field. This left Defining Purpose and Taxed seemingly left to battle it out.
However, the eye was quickly drawn to the strong traveling Wet Paint, who after spending the majority of the race as the back marker was closing in on the lead with every stride.
Still in third, as the leaders hit the half-furlong pole, Wet Paint was getting ever nearer before she eventually pulled alongside and set off for home.
With both Taxed and Defining Purpose unable to match her speed, Wet Paint would go onto saunter home and win by two lengths. It would be Taxed who would win the battle for second with Defining Purpose finishing in a plucky third.
As a result of her victory, Wet Paint has been established as one of the early favorites for the Kentucky Oaks and her connections will be full of belief that she can win the big one.
Martha Washington Stakes Results
- Wet Paint +300
- Taxed +2800
- Defining Purpose +100
Martha Washington Stakes Video
Wet Paint takes the RTKO Martha Washington Stakes 2023 #Horseracing #Horseracingtips #Horsesoftiktok #Horses #Horse #FYP #Sports♬ original sound – horseracingtote – horseracingtote
King Cotton Stakes
Six furlongs, Dirt, open to horses four and over. Total prize pool: $150,000
The final race from our Saturday recap comes in the form of the King Cotton Stakes where six horses were looking to win their share of the $150,000 prize pool.
Steve Asmussen had already tasted success in the Houston Ladies Classic over at Sam Houston and was hoping to have success on the Oaklawn card too. In Gunite he had the favorite, who was looking to build on some highly promising placed Stakes efforts from last year.
Even though the track was sloppy, the pace was fast and frenetic with both Gunite and Gar Hole breaking swiftly and producing plenty of early speed.
Gunite was always traveling smoothly and was more than happy to let Gar Hole tow the field along. The order of the race would remain unchanged until the runners hit the halfway stage.
Clearly needing more of a pace challenge, Ricardo Santana Jr on board Gunite said go, and Gunite clearly responded.
Rounding the turn in the first place, it was clear that Gunite wouldn’t be for catching. Bounding down the home straight, Gunite effortlessly moved through the gears to win by four lengths.
Tejano Twist was always sitting at the back of the pack but made his move at the three-furlong pole. Showing a wicked turn of foot, in just a few strides Tejano Twist moved from last to second and bravely tried to chase Gunite down.
Although his effort would turn out to be in vain, he certainly looked like a horse that could be set for bigger and brighter days and should be one to keep a note of.
With Gunite head and shoulders above the field, Asmussen declared that a crack at the Riyadh Dirt Sprint worth $1.5 million dollars could well be his next assignment. Taking on some of the best sprinters in the world shouldn’t deter connections of Gunite who will arrive in Saudi Arabia believing that their horse is more than capable of winning yet another big race.
King Cotton Stakes Results
- Gunite -167
- Tejano Twist +300
- Miles Ahead +1300
King Cotton Stakes Video
Gunite takes the 2023 King Cotton Stakes #Horseracing #Horseracingtips #Horsesoftiktok #Horses #Horse #FYP #Sports♬ original sound – horseracingtote – horseracingtote
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