The $300,000 2013 Southwest Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park is one of the tune-up races for the Arkansas Derby (G1) later in the meet. Of course the ultimate goal is to qualify for the Kentucky Derby as part of the all new Road to the Kentucky Derby series. It’s a new system that qualifies horses in terms of points versus the old system that went on graded stakes earnings. The Southwest Stakes is for three year old colts and gelding and will run on February 18, 2013. The race is set for one mile on dirt.
The following horses have been mentioned to run in this race:
1. Office Alex will be making his 2nd start of the year after finishing 6th in the Smarty Jones Stakes on January 21. The Officer colt trained by Lynn Whiting won 2 of 3 starts at age two. One was his maiden and the other a win in the Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes. Both at Parx Racing. The other start in between those two was an 8th place effort at Churchill Downs in an Allowance Optional Claiming $75,000. He hasn’t showed us enough to make us believe he can step up and steal this.
2. Brown Almighty looks to remain on dirt after finishing a distant 5th in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park on January 21. This after successful attempts on synthetic and turf. The Big Brown colt won his debut on turf at Arlington Park on July 14, then shipped to Louisiana Downs and won the Sunny’s Halo Stakes in August. He ran 2nd in the Sunday Silence Stakes before shipping to Keeneland. He ran 2nd in the Bourbon Stakes (G3) on the all weather surface. His return to turf was a tough task in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Santa Anita. He finished 9th.
3. Will Take Charge ran very well to capture the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park on January 21. The D. Wayne Lukas trained colt by Unbridled’s Song sat behind the early leaders in the one mile dirt race, but went 4-6 wide around the first turn and backstretch. He took over the lead at the top of the stretch and held off Texas Bling to win by a neck.Last summer, he ran 5th at Saratoga before heading to Keeneland and breaking his maiden on October 18. In his worst performance to date, he ran 13th and last in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs on November 24. He was never a factor. His last race before the Smarty Jones was a runner-up effort to 128/1 long shot Texas Bling in the Remington Springboard Mile Stakes at Remington Park. As mentioned, the same two would duel in the Smarty with this colt getting the upper hand.
4.Texas Bling has seemed to have turned the corner in his last two starts after taking 8 starts to break his maiden at Lone Star Park and Remington Park. The Danele Durham trained colt by Too Much Bling finished 6th in the El Joven Stakes at Retama Park on November 10 before winning the Remington Springboard Mile Stakes and finishing 2nd in the Smarty Jones.
5. Always In A Tiz also comes out of the Smarty Jones Stakes where the Tiznow colt finished 3rd beaten just a neck and head. It was just his 3rd career start. His first was a maiden score at Saratoga in September, then runner-up in the Traskwood Stakes at Aqueduct after missing just over three months. He should be tough with this being his second race off the layoff. Trained by Dominick Schettino.
6. Super Ninety Nine will make the trip East for trainer Bob Baffert. He comes into the Southwest Stakes off a comfortable 3 1/4 lengths win in an Allowance Optional Claiming $80,000 at Santa Anita going one mile on January 31. His career started at Santa Anita in October where he broke his maiden first out going seven furlongs. He ran 2nd to stablemate Really Mr. Greeley in the Hollywood Prevue Stakes (G3) going seven furlongs on the all weather surface. After a bad break, he ran 4th in his 3rd start on December 31. You have to like his last effort going the same one mile distance as this race, and they way he won. Sat off the lead, made a bold move late and pulled away. Baffert wouldn’t ship him across the country if he didn’t feel he could win again.
7. Fear The Kitten is going to be given one more attempt on dirt from trainer Michael Maker even though most feel he will end up on turf with his pedigree. The Kitten’s Joy colt out of the Dynaformer mare, Dynarhythm has turf written all over him, but as most try to do is see what they can do to keep their colt alive on the Derby Trail. His last race was a 3rd in the LeComte Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds on January 19. Previously, he ran 5th in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. He opened his career by winning a maiden claiming $40,000 at Keeneland in October on the all weather, then came right back to win an Allowance at Churchill Downs on dirt. The race was originally schedule for a mile on the turf. Let’s see how he performs in here before giving final judgement whether he is a dirt or turf horse.
8. Heaven’s Runway will go off as one of the longshots in this race. The Run Away and Hide colt trained by Bernard Chatters broke his maiden second out last year at Presque Isle Downs on August 4. He followed it up with a runner-up effort in an Allowance and a gate to wire win in the Fitz Dixon, Jr. Memorial Juvenile Stakes. Again, these all at Presque Isles Downs. He shipped to Kentucky in October and ran 7th in the Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs. His next two starts at Delta Downs resulted in a 7th place finish in the Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes (G3) and 3rd place finish (through DQ of winner) in the Big Drama Stakes. He’d have to step up and run the race of his life.
9. Channel Isle is the other Lukas trained colt in this race. He is 15/1 but could be a horse to come up with a big effort. He might not win, but could very well hit the top three or four. He had four tries to break his maiden at Saratoga and Keeneland, but didn’t. However, he was always in the hunt with consistent top three or four finishes against stiff competition. He ran against Fortify and Noble Tune while running on dirt, all weather and turf. He broke his maiden at Churchill on November 24 going 1 1/8 miles on turf. He ran 12th and last in the Remington Springboard Mile Stakes. However, he came out last and never seemed to be in it. He shipped to Oaklawn Park in preparation for the Southwest Stakes and won an Allowance race going one mile on the dirt. The same distance and surface. The English Channel colt pedigree screams turf, but has shown his ability to run on dirt too.
10. Big Lute is coming off his debut a couple of weeks ago at Oaklawn where he defeated a special weight class by 4 3/4 lengths after sitting off the pace early. He was eased up crossing the finish line in 1:10.43 for the six furlongs dirt race. The Midnight Lute colt trained by Steve Hobby posted a a bullet work between his last race and this one. He looks ready to go once again.
ORDER OF FINISH
1. Super Ninety Nine
2. Fear the Kitten
3. Heaven’s Runway
4. Channel Isle
5. Always in a Tiz
6. Will Take Charge
7. Big Lute
8. Brown Almighty
9. Texas Bling
10. Officer Alex
Last year, Baffert dominated the three year old stakes races at Oaklawn Park. He won both versions of the Southwest Stakes with Secret Circle and Castaway after the track separated the event into two races due to the overwhelming number of entries. Secret Circle also won the Rebel Stakes with Bodemeister taking the Arkansas Derby. If we don’t see another Baffert trained horse in this race, definitely expect to see them enter the Rebel Stakes on March 16.