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2023 Sir Barton Stakes Preview & FREE Picks | Arabian Lion Takes Class Drop For Baffert
Arabian Lion (11) leads First Mission late in the Lexington (Carson Blevins/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

2023 Sir Barton Stakes Preview & FREE Picks | Arabian Lion Takes Class Drop For Baffert

Mike previews the 2023 Sir Barton Stakes from Pimlico, then gives his top picks & long shots. The Bob Baffert-trained Arabian Lion takes a class drop after finishing 2nd in the Lexington Stakes (G3) behind top Preakness Stakes (G1) contender First Mission. Can the Justify colt finally finish the job at the stakes level? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The press release:

For Zedan Racing’s Arabian Lion, the $100,000 Sir Barton Stakes on Saturday is a chance to prove that he is a player to be reckoned with in stakes competition.

After a frustrating second in the April 15 Lexington Stakes (G3) at Keeneland, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is trying him again at 1 1/16 miles in the 25th running of the Sir Barton sponsored by Brandon and Diannah Perry to benefit the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. He is the 2-5 morning-line favorite in the field of six.

The Sir Barton is the fourth race on the blockbuster 14-race Preakness Stakes (G1) program at Pimlico Race Course that features 10 stakes, six of them graded worth $2.75 million in purses.

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First Mission caught Arabian Lion in deep stretch to win the Lexington and has advanced to the Preakness. A few hours before the Preakness, Arabian Lion will headline the Sir Barton, which is restricted to 3-year-olds that have not won a stake race.

In the Lexington, Arabian Lion, a son of Baffert’s 2018 Triple Crown champion Justify, jumped to the lead from the outside post position and had things his own way before First Mission took over.

“I want to give him another chance at two turns,” Baffert said. “He looked like a winner. I don’t know what he did last time. It was just weird. He was in a good spot. It looked like he couldn’t lose and then all of sudden he sort of stopped running there. He’s been working well. He looks good. We’ll see what he does.”

Arabian Lion was purchased for $600,000 as a 2-year-old and promptly broke his maiden in October. He was a close second in an allowance in early November but could not ride his speed to victory in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) on Dec. 17 or the Robert Lewis (G3) on Feb. 4. He did not compete again during the two months before the Lexington.

Since the Lexington, Arabian Lion, a $600,000 2-year-old purchase, has worked three times at Santa Anita. He  will be ridden in the Sir Barton by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.

Starting just to Arabian Lion’s inside in Post 3 will be Tapit’s Conquest, co-owned by Robert LaPenta and e Five Racing Thoroughbreds. He was a Triple Crown series prospect for trainer Brad Cox earlier this year. His progress was interrupted by a frustrating fourth in the Risen Star (G2), Feb. 18 at Fair Grounds and a troubled seventh in the March 25 Louisiana Derby (G2).

Tapit’s Conquest has breezed five times since the Louisiana Derby. He will be ridden for the first time by Luis Saez and is 4-1 on the morning line.

“He’s doing well,” Cox said. “He’s got to step up. I got high on this horse back in February and March and he didn’t quite run as well as I was expecting. I thought the Risen Star was his for the taking. At the eighth pole, I thought he was going to win it. I got really excited. He kind of leveled off a little but there in the last eighth of a mile at Fair Grounds.

The Sir Barton will be Tapit’s Conquest’s sixth race and Cox said he is a work in progress.

“He’s a nice horse,” Cox said. “I think there is more there. We’re going to need more. It’s a solid race. He’s a good colt. I think he’s a Tapit that is going to get better the more he does it. I’m hopeful that he can take a step forward on Saturday.”

Denington, a homebred son if Gun Runner owned by Fern Circle Stables and trainer Kenny McPeek’s Magdalena Racing showed promise this winter but was unable to make the next step and get solid footing on the Triple Crown trail. He was 10th in the Louisiana Derby following a sharp win against allowance/optional claiming company and ended up fourth in the Lexington. He drew the outside post and will be ridden for the first time by Flavien Prat.

Masterwork, a maiden winner on March 31 in his first start for trainer Robert Klesaris, drew the rail. Horacio Karamanos will idea the chestnut son of Mastery again.

Sherriff Ronnie, owned by Designated Hitters Racing, will attempt to break his maiden in the Sir Barton. The Tale of Ekati gelding will be ridden by Jaime Rodriquez.  

Feeling Woozy, a Maryland-bred owned and trained by Hamilton Smith, has not raced since he was fifth in the Private Terms March 18 when he was rank early and had to be steadied on the first turn. Regular rider Angel Cruz will be aboard.