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.

Empire New York Showcase Day, Races 1-6, Saturday October 18

NY-bred racing has come a long way, and you now routinely find runners winning in open company and the best horses winning Graded Stakes. Several come home today to face other NY-breds in a terrific mid-October day of racing.

As with other big days, it seems like it could be a chalky day, with some exceptions in a few contentious races. I’m going to build win and P3 tickets out of these opinions, and my goal is to accept the low, but fair, prices we will see today and bet accordingly. There’s certainly a chalky P5 sequence to play at a higher unit as well. Good luck!

Race 1: It’s an average group of maidens and Tizquick (#2, 6/5) is a clear standout of speed, if you forgive that last mud effort in a stakes. It might keep the price above even money, which would be a bit fairer. The rest of the contenders remaining are an unimpressive group of first-time starters and Scattered Dreams (#4, 8-1) who ran well in a slow race on the ship in from Laurel last time, may be the best bet to upset. David Rocks (#6, 6-1) hails from the Levine barn which can win with these at first asking. I won’t get fancy and single Tizquick.

Race 2: Another race with strong chalk as Ostrolenka (#2, 9-5) coming off a very impressive maiden. There’s always risk with putting too much stock in a solid maiden win in a stakes race. Good Luck Gus (#7, 3-1) would need to improve, but does bring a Finger Lakes stakes victory to the table. Seems another place to not mess around too much and single the favorite.

Race 3: I’ve warmed to Temper Mint Patty (#3, 8-5) who dominated a recent stakes in the mud by over 13 lengths. Even if she regresses on the fast dirt, others would still need to to improve, which isn’t impossible given the first-time stretchouts. Sweetpollypurebrd (#5, 5-1), Quezon (#6, 7-2), and Sandra (#7, 6-1) all qualify on some tickets on the first time route. But, that said, I’m leaning much more heavily towards the chalk here and will make it a rare three favorites in a row.

Race 4: Some tested turf warriors in this field, who like to take turns beating each other. I’ll simply try to get by with King Kressa (#3, 9-5), Lubash (#9, 2-1), and Kharafa (#1, 5-1).  Speed and class advantages, and here’s hoping we stay to form. I figure most people will have these in the multi-race exotics, so this might be the race to expect something crazy to happen.

Race 5: Class comes home as both Willet (#4, 9-5) and La Verdad (#8, 7-5) exit graded stakes. Some consideration for the improved Irish Whisper (#5, 15-1) returning from the layoff and Risky Rachel (#6, 6-1) if the other three aren’t up to form. This race makes me more nervous than the first 4, and I may spread a bit further depending on final ticket costs accordingly.

Race 6: A race where I’m going to want to see the board. I’m tepid on the lukewarm favorite Brother O’Connell (#9, 3-1) who has two not great showings on the turn to his name, and will leave him off. Persuasive Devil (#8, 5-1) has speed and tries turf for the first time. Ode to the Hunt (#10, 7-2) had a good debut and is expected to improve more today. Gear Jammer (#12, 4-1) is another to include, with close enough speed and a chance to wire. A very strong contender in Foxhall Drive (#13, 7-2) draws in off the AE, and should be included as wll. I’ll leave off all FTS here, especially Threes are Wild (#11, 8-1), who I expect to return to dirt after conditioning.

Good luck with the first part of the day. I’ll be back with the concluding races and a recap a bit later in the card.

Image: Roger Smith, Copyright 2014.