The Southwest Stakes (GIII)

Update: The race was postponed due to inclement weather. It was redrawn, with some defections and an addition, and will be run on Sunday, Feb. 22. Here’s my amended analysis, also found here:

[The addition of Hillbilly Royalty is fascinating. He was super sharp earning a 93 Beyer in an allowance here two weeks ago. It’s a fast turn around, but he seems sharp and reschedule/ defections make this race very winning. He also likes to reward his believers as he already has two double-digit odds wins to his resume as well, winning on debut at 14-1 and in an allowance at 13-1. He’ll be a good deal lower that that on Sunday, but could still be a reasonable 4/1.]

Here’s the original article: 

One of my favorite 3-day weekends of the year with President’s Day, particularly because of the annual Southwest Stakes from Oaklawn. Many eyes toward Louisville in May with 10 Kentucky Derby points going to the winner (10-4-2-1). Several in the race already have Kentucky Derby points in part because of the Smarty Jones Stakes, won by Far Right.

Far Right returns as the 3-1 M/L favorite in the Southwest.  He proved himself better than Bayerd and Private Prospect last time out. That said, there are reasons to be hesitant about him. I’m not sure he’ll love the extra half furlong and Ron Moquett — an otherwise very good trainer — doesn’t win Graded Stakes. He only cost $2,500 originally, although Robert LaPenta bought a 1/3 share in him after the Delta Jackpot. Far Right could be a horse of a different quality, but I’d rather see that first before taking action, especially on a likely favorite.

Mr. Z. was clear and going home but then was all over the place in the stretch. Given that he’s experienced, I’ll take it as tiring very badly; Jon Court seemed to go to the whip a bit early (although it is a notoriously short stretch in the 8f route at Oaklawn.) Even though the addition of Nakatani is notable, I still don’t like him today. He has all the signs of a horse that’s already peaked.

War Story is interesting, but Amoss horses typically show who they are pretty quickly. He could be fast enough to get it done here today, especially if he takes to the surface. A blistering workout on the 11th is encouraging, but the 11 post is going to be a challenge. It’s a close enough race that post could make a difference.

You’ll hear a bunch about the Todd Pletcher-trained, Donald Dizney-homebred JS Bach coming out of a dominant maiden score at Gulfstream. I typically don’t like the maiden to Graded Stakes move for inexperienced horses, but understand the motivations for it. On the contrary, I don’t mind the maiden to Graded Stakes move as much in the case of Kantune, who already has 7 starts under his belt. He really took the Oaklawn surface — both in the morning and afternoon — after struggling in California. He’ll go the same distance over the same track as his lifetime best today. He’s 15-1 on the morning line and is fast enough to get it done.

Kentucky Derby points start to rise with the Risen Star from the Fairground next week. Be sure to check the Kentucky Derby Trail page for replays and more. 

Image: I-5 Design and Manufacture, Copyright 2009.

The Smarty Jones

I’ll take any chance that I can to rave about one of my all-time favorite horses, Smarty Jones, who Monday’s stakes race for 3YO from Oaklawn is named. He raced at Oaklawn through his 3YO winter in 2004, winning all 3 stakes he entered.

Screenshot 2015-01-16 17.07.40

Monday’s race is 8f for 3YO. Still a bit on the shorter side distance-wise, but this race may mark some decent contenders moving into the season at Oaklawn. Mr. Z has been in some tight photos as of late, but has been competitive against the top of the division. He has 10 points already and a win here would get him pretty close to the magic number for qualifying for the Derby. Lucky Player also with 10 points, returns after failing to back up his G3 win in the Iroquois. He’ll have to move forward — not impossible, but not something that seems very likely.

Hebbronville is interesting on his first stretchout on a (likely) fast track. Weather looks nice this weekend in Hot Springs, so no concern of another wet track for this one.

Screenshot 2015-01-16 17.19.56


He could be something — which he showed by running well against Blofeld in the Futurity last October. Far Right is interesting, but another that would need to move forward significantly to win. I’d rather wait a race on horses like that. I don’t like Bayerd past this distance — he could get the mile here, though. He’s intriguing — more of a sprinter against many of these prepping for longer and bigger things. He’s worth a look, but today only.

For those playing, I’d move away from those with points — Mr. Z and Lucky Player — and towards some possible prices. Consider instead Bayerd to steal it with the short stretch or for Hebbronville to enjoy the added distance and dry track.

Good luck on Monday at Oaklawn.

Image: Jean, Copyright 2009.