Southwest Stakes

Happy President’s Day! And the “bonus” racing that comes along with it, including a Kentucky Derby Prep from Oaklawn. The Southwest Stakes, a GIII at 8.5 furlongs, has drawn a field of 10, with the scratch of Principe Guiherme. At first glance, it’s a Baffert race to lose, with Mourinho rocking the best speed figure and a significant advantage over the field. And, as usual, I’ll try to beat him, just like we beat Instilled Regard with Brazado at 21-1 in the Risen Star.

The strengths of Mourinho are many. He’s fast — fastest in the field — and won the Smarty Jones over this track. He’s finished first or second in every race. He had a successful 2YO campaign, gaining experience which showed up in the Smarty Jones as he stretched out for the first time. He cost $625K as a 2YO in training. There are some downsides. Baffert doesn’t exactly excel with 2-time starters off the layoff (he rocks the layoff, though), but that’s of less concern b/c of the nature of this animal. He did get an easy lead last time — something that likely won’t happen today.

There are several challengers, starting with the Asmussen-trained Combatant for Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton Racing. He finished second in the  Smarty Jones, sitting off the pace, and finishing 3 1/4 lengths in arrears. He’ll need to improve and get a more favorable pace, but both are possible. It’s his 3rd start as a 3YO – both routes — which is favorable for another strong performance. Seven Trumpets ran well in the Jerome, but was still significantly slower than needed to win here. He’s likely a pace factor, along with Retirement Fund, Ezmosh, Mourinho, and Sporting Chance.

Sporting Chance makes his 3YO debut after winning the GI Hopeful last year. It’s also his first stretchout for the son of Tiznow. He was an expensive yearling for the Derby Trail veteran in D. Wayne Lukas. He has the most chance to improve among the contenders. Ezmosh comes off a loss by a neck to the upset winner of the Risen Star, Bravazo. He’d need to improve and get a good pace, but is likely too slow.

Analysis: It is Mourinho’s race to lose and there aren’t tremendously strong contenders. Combatant could win at a better pace, but I really like Sporting Chance to improve on his 2YO form. You won’t get 21-1, but you could get 6-1. Add him to your ticket with Mourinho and you should be able to get through the P4.


California Derby

We’ll head up the coast to the Bay Area for the California Derby at 3:55 p.m local time. At Golden Gate Fields, it’s a local prep for the El Camino Real Derby — their Kentucky Derby Prep race. Combined with the Spiral from Turfway, these two races create an artificial surface path to the Derby. Today, we’ll hopefully see if any of the horses show enough prowess routing over the fake dirt to earn the right to fight for consideration for the Kentucky Derby.

Let’s run down the field (after scratches):

  • Kylemore: A really nice allowance try over the track, plus a nice win over the turf at Del Mar late last summer. 2nd try in his 3YO campaign.
  • Mugaritz: Won the allowance mentioned above at high speed. Got here through the maiden claiming ranks — clearing by 6 at $20K Maidens. He’s improved to start the 3YO campaign — his lack of back class is his main knock.
  • Intimidate: Left Northern California to win the King Glorious for Cal-breds on his first-time route on the dirt. Returns to the artificial surface, where he had some success this past fall. Seems a bit overmatched, despite the stakes win.
  • Generally Lucky: He’s a 3-time winner, but all at lower levels, breaking his maiden at the $16K level. He ran 3rd in the allowance mentioned above, with Kylemore and Mugaritz. Would need to improve.
  • Choo Choo: A Southern California shipper, he’s run well in two turf stakes, especially the Eddie Logan. Picks up Juan Hernandez for the local debut. He’s 2-1, but that seems ambitious for his first artificial try. He’s a serious contender, on class and with enough speed to be competitive for the top spot.
  • East Rand: Starting in the Midwest, he made his way to SoCal for two turf stakes. His performances weren’t great, losing by 21 lengths in the final stakes try. He ran so-so over an artificial surface at Arlington last summer. He’ll need to improve, especially in regards to early speed now that he leaves the turf. Not today.


There’s a decent amount of early speed, which sets the race up for Kylemore, who brings a good resume. I expect him to win the rematch with Mugaritz, coming off the pace. Generally Lucky should find his way into the trifecta at 30-1.