Noble Indy edges Lone Sailor in $1 million Louisiana Derby

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) Co-favorite Noble Indy settled near the front and held off a late charge by Lone Sailor to win the $1 million Louisiana Derby by a head at the Fair Grounds Race Course on Saturday.

Noble Indy and Bravazo both went off at 5-2 in what is one of the major prep races for the Kentucky Derby, but Bravazo faded after entering the final turn in third.

2018 Kentucky Derby: How to Watch, Post Time, Horses and More

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Noble Indy earned 100 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby, assuring qualification for the Triple Crown opener.

“This race was a big step in the right direction. I was pleased with the way he conducted himself,” Pletcher said of his horse. “He seems to be maturing as he gets more experience.”

Jockey John Velazquez steered Noble Indy into the lead entering the final turn and finished the 1 1/8-mile, Grade-2 stakes race in 1:50.28. He paid $7.40, $4.80 and $3.20.

“He’s very talented but he’s very green,” Velazquez said, adding that he didn’t want Noble Indy to run near the front as long as he did.

“I was a little afraid that he was a little too strong in the back stretch and not have anything down the lane,” Velazquez said.

But when Lone Sailor pulled alongside Noble-Indy, who was wearing blinkers, Velazquez said his horse “starting putting a good bite on the rein. I was glad he did.”

Lone Sailor was a sentimental favorite, racing one day after the jazz funeral of its owner, New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson. The Tom Amoss-trained colt, with James Graham aboard, earned 40 points – likely enough to qualify for the Kentucky Derby – and paid $7.80 and $4.20. Morning line favorite My Boy Jack finished third in the 10-horse field and paid $3.20.

Lone Sailor represented the lone Kentucky Derby hopeful for GMB Racing, the stable established by Benson and his wife, Gayle. But he ran poorly in the Grade-3 Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds in January.

This time, Amoss asked Graham to lay back and try to close strong, which is precisely what he did with a horse that went off at 9-1.

“We had a good feeling about this race today. He ran great,” Amoss said. “Look, the best horse probably won today. I won’t deny that. But our boy really stepped up and ran a great race and I’m very proud of him.

“I’m not going to get spiritual about this whole thing, but I will tell you this. I really felt like Mr. Benson was with us today,” Amoss added.

My Boy Jack, trained by Keith Desormeaux, now has 32 points. Part owner Sol Kumin of Monomoy Stables said the horse could run in the Arkansas Derby if he needs more points to earn a start at Churchill Downs on May 5.

“We’ll wait to see how he comes out and what Keith wants to do,” Kumin said. “In Keith we trust.”

Pegasus races planned for Gulfstream and Santa Anita in 2024

Horse racing on Opening day of the winter-spring meet at Santa Anita Park.
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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – After seven Pegasus World Cup events, it’s evidently time for change.

1/ST Racing, which has hosted the entirety of the Pegasus series to this point at Gulfstream Park, is planning for two Pegasus days in 2024 – one at Gulfstream and the other at Santa Anita. Details aren’t finalized and it’s unclear how it would fit in the racing calendar, but 1/ST is planning for both dirt and turf Pegasus races as part of the Santa Anita program.

Gulfstream played host to the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on the dirt Saturday, along with the $1 million Pegasus Turf and the $500,000 Pegasus Filly and Mare Turf.

“I’d really love to see that we bring it to the West Coast,” 1/ST President and CEO Belinda Stronach said. “That will probably happen in 2024. What we did this year for 2023 was said, `OK, we have a number of great race days, let’s coordinate those better and call it the 1/ST Racing Tour and recognize great achievements within our own footprint.”

Saturday marked the first stop on that new 1/ST Racing Tour. Along with some of the biggest race days at 1/ST tracks – like Florida Derby day at Gulfstream on April 1, Santa Anita Derby day on April 8 and the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20 – there are a pair of days where the tour will be running simultaneously.

This coming Saturday, Gulfstream will play host to the Holy Bull while Santa Anita has the Robert B. Lewis – both of them Kentucky Derby prep races.

And on March 4, Gulfstream has the Fountain of Youth, another major Derby prep, while San Anita has the Big Cap. Plans call for coordinated post times at those two tracks on those days to provide the best racing action every 20 minutes, as well as some unique betting options.

“We can never rest on our laurels,” Stronach said. “We have to keep moving forward. We have a great team that’s really committed.”

The main Pegasus race is one of the biggest-paying races in North America. Art Collector claimed about $1.8 million from a $3 million purse with his win on Saturday. In 2022, only the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic and $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf featured bigger prizes among U.S. races, and the $3 million Pegasus purse is equal to the one offered last year at the Kentucky Derby.

Regardless of what happens with the Santa Anita plan for future Pegasus events, Stronach insisted Gulfstream will continue having Pegasus days. There has even been talk about Gulfstream playing host to Breeders’ Cup races again, something that hasn’t happened since 1999.

“This is staying here in Miami,” Stronach said. “Pegasus has a home here in Miami. We can’t move Pegasus from Miami. We have great partners here and it’s more than just a day now. We have deep roots here in Miami.”

Arabian Knight earns Baffert record 6th win in Southwest

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Arabian Knight won the $750,000 Southwest Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths at Oaklawn, giving Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his record sixth victory in the race.

The colt came into the Kentucky Derby prep as one of the most highly touted 3-year-olds in the country. Arabian Knight, who was purchased for $2.3 million as a 2-year-old, was making his second career start and first on a sloppy track in front of 27,000 fans in Arkansas.

“These good horses are hard to come by,” said Baffert, who was on hand in Hot Springs. “We’ve had a lot of luck here at Oaklawn, so it was nice to have a horse like this.”

However, Arabian Knight was ineligible to earn the Kentucky Derby qualifying points awarded to the winner because Baffert has been suspended for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. The penalty, which ends shortly after this year’s Derby on May 6, stems from Medina Spirit’s medication violation after the colt won the 2021 Derby and was later disqualified. Baffert is challenging the ban in court.

Ridden by John Velazquez, Arabian Knight ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:43.50 and paid $2.80 to win. He is 2-0 and has career earnings of $544,275.

“He ran 1:43 and change, that’s racehorse time and he did it without taking a deep breath,” Baffert said. “This was a big effort.”

Red Route One closed from last to finish second, and Frosted Departure was third. Sun Thunder was fourth, followed by Jace’s Road, Corona Bolt, El Tomate and Western Ghent.

At Gulfstream in Florida, Baffert’s entry Defunded finished second in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup, beaten by 4 1/2 lengths by Art Collector on Saturday.