After Arabian Lion made short work of four rivals in the Sir Barton Stakes at Pimlico on May 20, trainer Bob Baffert lamented that maybe he should have run the 3-year-old Justify colt later that afternoon in the day’s marquee event: the 148th running of the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes.
But the Hall of Fame trainer had that race covered anyway, when National Treasure fought off Blazing Sevens to give Baffert a record eighth triumph in the Triple Crown’s middle jewel.
On Saturday at Belmont Park, Arabian Lion avoided the big name contest again, skipping the G1 Belmont Stakes at a mile and a half in favor of another race, but this one carrying coveted Grade 1 status: the 39th running of the Woody Stephens at seven furlongs. He earned a sterling 109 Beyer Speed Figure for the breakout performance.
Arabian Lion passed his first G1 test with flying colors, rallying from just off the pace under John Velazquez as the 2-1 favorite to win the Woody Stephens going away by 1 3/4 lengths over previously unbeaten Drew’s Gold. The latter, who prompted the early pace set by another unbeaten colt, Federal Judge, had three-quarters of a length on third-place finisher Gilmore.
Arabian Lion, winning for the third time in seven starts for Zedan Racing Stables, paid $6.70 to win.
Arabian Lion, produced from the Distorted Humor mare Unbound, was bred in Kentucky by Bonne Chance Farms and purchased by Zedan for $600,000 from the Hidden Brook consignment at the 2022 OBS April Sale of 2-year-olds in training. He was prepared for OBS the famed Hidden Brook Florida training center nearby. He won his debut in October at Santa Anita, earning a “Rising Star” designation from Thoroughbred Daily News.
In most of his starts, Arabian Lion raced on the lead, but in the Stephens, he tucked in behind Federal Judge, who set fractions of :22.65 and :45.64 through the opening half mile. Velazquez switched Arabian Lion off the rail rounding into the stretch, hit the front at the furlong pole, the six furlongs in 1:09.37, and drew away impressively to the wire against a talented Drew’s Gold.
“He broke well,” said Velazquez. “He got outrun right away so I sat behind the leaders. When I asked him to do it down the lane, he responded right away. He is a nice horse.”
Baffert said Arabian Lion would be under consideration for the G1 Haskell at Monmouth Park July 22, along with another top 3-year-old for Zedan Racing, Arabian Knight. “One of the Arabians will be there,” said Baffert.
“This horse, I’ve always been so high on, he’s just been slow to come around. Amr Zedan, he let me be patient with him and now we’re getting rewarded with the way he ran.”
Baffert called Arabian Lion’s race in the Sir Barton “amazing,” then added, “I flew him back to California and I said, ‘I probably won’t bring him back’ but he was doing so well, I could tell. He’s just a smaller version of [sire] Justify and to have a horse by Justify – one of the greatest horses I’ve ever trained – and to bring him to New York and win a Grade 1, that’s what we’re all in the game for. I ran the right horse [National Treasure] in the Preakness. He wasn’t ready for something like that.”
-edited from www.PaulickReport.com