Kentucky Derby

Bob Baffert-trained Muth wins Arkansas Derby but won’t be eligible for Kentucky Derby

Bob Baffert-trained Muth wins Arkansas Derby but won't be eligible for Kentucky Derby

Bob Baffert-trained Muth won the Arkansas Derby on Saturday, but the horse is not eligible to run in the Kentucky Derby because of Baffert’s suspension at Churchill Downs.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Whether Muth is the best 3-year-old thoroughbred in the United States remains to be seen, but it’s clear after Saturday’s Arkansas Derby that the Kentucky Derby will miss a rising star.

With Juan Hernandez riding, Muth took the lead on the far turn and withstood a late charge from Just Steel to win the $1 million, Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park by 2 lengths.

Muth will not be eligible to run in the May 4 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs because trainer Bob Baffert is suspended at the track through 2024.

Muth could return May 18 for the Preakness in Baltimore, but Baffert wasn’t ready to commit after watching the Arkansas Derby from his home in California.

“I don’t think about it right now,” Baffert said while driving to Saturday night’s Clemson-Alabama NCAA men’s basketball tournament game in Los Angeles. “I just think about the horses, and this was a very important race to win. … Any time you can win a race like that, it’s why we’re in the business. It was so exciting to watch him come down the lane.”

Muth covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.54. He paid $6.60 to win as the 2-1 second choice.

Just Steel, a 32-1 shot trained by D. Wayne Lukas, rallied for second and earned 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby. He now has 65 total points, likely clinching a spot in the Run for the Roses.

We’re excited, but it’s disappointing there won’t be (Baffert),” Lukas said. “He’s got great horses. He’s got Derby horses, but he’s going through a lot of things right now that shouldn’t be happening. But we can’t change that.

“I was confident about my horse. I was telling someone else, ‘When there’s a little bit of brilliance in there, when you see it, you can dig in there and get it.’ If they don’t have that brilliance, then you’re just in la-la land bringing these horses over and hoping. But he’s got some in him, and now we just have to see if we can get it out of him.”

Muth stalked the early leaders — Time for Truth into the first turn and even-money favorite Timberlake on the backstretch.

Hernandez made his move on the turn and had plenty of horse.

“I had a really nice trip,” Hernandez said. “My horse broke good. He’s good out of the gate. He’s fast. … My horse was really comfortable on the backside. He was traveling really well. Around the three-eighths (pole), I asked him to pick it up, and he responded. And then around the quarter-pole, I asked him for everything that he had, and he showed that he has a lot of talent. He just took off again.”

Muth, a son of Good Magic, improved to 4-2-0 in six career starts for owner Zedan Racing. He’s 2 for 2 as a 3-year-old, having won the Grade 2 San Vicente on Jan. 6 at Santa Anita Park.

Mystik Dan earned 25 Kentucky Derby points for his third-place finish and now has 46 total.

We went around the first turn and got knocked pretty good by (Liberal Arts),” Mystik Dan jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. said. “It was pretty hard and kind of cost us some position. But our horse, you’ve got to be proud of him. He ran on nicely, and picking up third was big.”

Timberlake faded to fourth and earned 15 points, giving him a total of 81.

“Just a little empty at the end,” Timberlake jockey Flavien Prat said.

More Kentucky Derby preps: Check the results from Saturday’s Florida Derby and UAE Derby

Jason Frakes: 502-582-4046; jfrakes@courier-journal.com. Follow on X @KentuckyDerbyCJ.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Bob Baffert-trained Muth wins Arkansas Derby but won’t run in Kentucky Derby

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