Oaklawn Park’s $500,000 Grade 3 – Southwest Stakes is the highlight of a great Presidents’ Day card. Wayne Catalano will saddle morning-line favorite, UNCONTESTED, who is coming off a dominant victory in the Smarty Jones Stakes in which the three year old colt sprinted clear and was never challenged winning the race by more than five lengths.
The question with UNCONTESTED has to be, how good is he? He really hasn’t faced any of the top three year-old contenders. Here is a breakdown of all he horses in the race. It is an 8 1/2 furlong route to the second finish line at Oaklawn Park.
#1 – Cool Arrow (B.Hernandez Jr/J.Sharp)
Tried maiden special weight company in first two starts as a two year-old, failed in both running evenly at Churchill. Dropped down to maiden claiming company in third start at Laurel Park and crushed as the 2/5 favorite.
Came back as the favorite in the Kip Deville Stakes at Remington Park after taking a couple months off. Went off at 9-5 and proved why he was the favorite again, he drew off under confident handling by Joel Rosario.
Followed that start with a return to Churchill Downs in the Spendthrift Stallion Stakes, went off at 3-1 in first try at seven furlongs. Tracked in second throughout but drifted out into the 6path and could not gain on the eventual winner. Came back in the Springboard Mile, first try at two turns, and won for fun with Luis Saez in the irons.
This one is interesting and will likely be part of the pace scenario. Need to take a good look at this one on the track. He could be ready to take a step forward, if that doesn’t happen, it will likely be the end of the derby trail for this contender. I tend to think this is one of Joe Sharp’s good ones and he will be in the mix at the end of this one. TRUE ODDS: 6-1
#2 – Silver Dust (C.Lanerie/R.Morse)
After breaking slow from the gate in his debut and improving position with a strong late effort at odds of 7-1, he came back in his second start to split rivals and drive through to a clear victory in a strong effort. He put up a very fast speed figure and must be considered if the pace scenario is hot up front.
I am going to keep a very close eye on this one in the warm-up because his breeding (Tapit-Filare I’oro) is extremely intriguing. This one must be considered before making any bets. I’m still thinking what to do with this one. Check my twitter. TRUE ODDS: TBD
#3 – UNCONTESTED (C.Hill/W.Catalano)
Dazzled in debut, winning going away by six lengths. Came back in Kentucky Jockey Club and showed great early speed to get the lead against a tough group, but faltered in the stretch and stayed on for fourth.
I underestimated his chances going into the Smarty Jones, his last race. He broke on top which I should have realized was extremely likely considering his first two starts and the class of the fields he faced. He took a major jump as far as pace is concerned and needs to be considered probably the classiest speed horse of the group. I would be extremely surprised if he does make the lead at first call. Even with all the aforementioned prowess, I think there is a chance that the speed factor in the race will play a significant part in who wins tomorrow at Oaklawn. There is enough speed that we must consider the closers. TRUE ODDS: 2-1
#4 – LOOKIN AT LEE (R.Santana Jr/S.Asmussen)
Having not started since the BC Juvenile puts this one behind as far as stamina goes, but it looks like Asmussen has given this one a heavy workload, and I would be extremely surprised if he is not ready to go. I liked this one on Breeders’ Cup day, but he just ran out of room and got too far behind to make up any late ground on the eventual winner, CLASSIC EMPIRE.
Both of his victories came at Ellis Park against softer groups, but continued to improve in every effort leading up to the Breeders’ Cup. This is a horse to keep a very close eye on tomorrow. If he proves to be the best in the Southwest, he will get plenty of Derby talk moving forward. TRUE ODDS: TBD
#5 – ROWDY THE WARRIOR (L.Quinonez/D.Von Hemel)
Well the local jockey/trainer combination cannot be ignored, but they are asking a lot to win against this group. I had this one as an outside contender in the Smarty Jones and that’s exactly how he ran. He has continued in his young career to close ground, but he has been unable to get up in time. The pace figures are just not quite fast enough to get up against this group either.
He deserves a look and is a quality closer, but I just don’t see it happening against a stronger group than he faced in his last outing. TRUE ODDS: 35-1
#6 – CU RAHY (G.Corbett/D.Durham)
Trainer of Cu Rahy, Danele Durham with another one of her horses
Not a lot to say about this one. Lone win came in the slop routing at Remington Park back in August. Was bet heavily in the start for connections that do well in that spot. Had tried stakes company in four consecutive, had little success, came back in AOC company at Oaklawn and did not run a step, maybe they were aiming for this spot the entire way, but it’s hard to take a chance with a horse that has not really done much in six months. TRUE ODDS: 40-1
#7 – WARRIOR’S CLUB (C.Landeros/D.W.Lukas)
Two unsuccessful starts in maiden company, followed by a win at Churchill Downs in the Spendthrift Stallion Stakes put this one on the Derby trail. A solid pace number in that race, got him into serious Derby talk when he was entered in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, he ran very well at 12-1, but flattened out late to get third place.
First start as a 3 year old in the Smarty Jones was not something to get all excited about, but he had a lot of time off so if Lukas used that as a tune up for this one, watch out. I think you need to take this one seriously tomorrow and he could be dangerous having put up serious pace numbers in the past.
#8 – PETROV (J.Ortiz/R.Moquett)
The second place finisher in the Smarty Jones warrants a look in this race, but honestly didn’t think much of him going in to that last race. He had every chance in the last affair to run at eventual winner UNCONTESTED, but just could not keep up with him. If you want to use the wet track as an excuse, which I can understand to a point, go ahead an take your chance with him, but I would rather take a stone cold closer in this race, than this horse who hasn’t really faced the toughness that some of these have. And with only three starts, how much stamina can this one have built up in his bones. TRUE ODDS: 8-1
#9 – DILETTANTE (F.Geroux/D.W.Lukas)
It is the right day to put this one in, Lukas with Charismatic – Hearts will be with him Monday
It took this one eight starts to figure out what it takes to get to the winners circle, the winning time wasn’t anything to go crazy about, but the pace figure actually puts it in the mix if he runs a similar race to the last. He gets a top rated jockey to pick up the mount, for a top rated trainer that has won at the top level a number of times. I wouldn’t just discount this one because he has never ran in a stakes race in the past. He has been working out on the track consistently and has learned a lot in his races. TRUE ODDS: 12-1
#10 HENCE (R.Vasquez/S.Asmussen)
I don’t know the specifics but if Ramon Vasquez decided to ride this mount instead of the ride on #9, it could mean something if you are debating taking one of the long shots in the race. Either way, HENCE proved with a troubled start in his last, he is still good enough to win, but may be immature on the track which makes me a bit hesitant to use him against a group like this. This is a horse to watch in the long run, if he eventually figures out what he is supposed to do on race day, he could be worth making a bet on down the road. Against this group, not in my opinion TRUE ODDS: 30-1
#11 ONE LINER (J.Velazquez/T.Pletcher)
Debuted like a champ in his debut at Saratoga in July as the betting favorite. Followed that up with a long break, I don’t know specifics of why the layoff happened, but he came back at Gulfstream with a dominant win and strong gallop out. If he is the real deal and ready for the Derby trail, we will find out tomorrow. My guess is that this horse goes off as the betting favorite or damn near based off that last effort. It was ultra-impressive and I would be very surprised with them shipping in for this race specifically, that he will be in tip-top shape and ready to roll. If I know Pletcher like I think I do, game on! TRUE ODDS: 8-5
#12 – P C COWBOY (C.Marquez Jr/John Ortiz)
P C Cowboy will need some help from Carlos Marquez Jr. to win the Southwest on Monday
Local connections are asking a lot to compete with this group. Ramon Vasquez was up in previous mounts and opted elsewhere in this affair. His pace figures do not put him in the mix for any kind of prize in this one. He did show the ability to close in his debut when he got claimed. I am sure Allen Milligan wasn’t happy about that one, cause he came back to win in MSW company at long odds, ouch. Either way, it most likely won’t matter in this one. TRUE ODDS: 50-1
#13 – CHIEF KNOW IT ALL (J.Rocco Jr/B.Cox)
Broke maiden back at Indiana Downs in August putting up a very fast pace figure in his second start as a two year old. Not only did he win, he was ridden out winning by more than 10 lengths. Interestingly, he came back in three allowance races at Churchill Downs in the fall and failed in all three, getting third place in all three. I don’t know it was the track or if he bounced off the big effort at Indiana Grand, but he shipped to Oaklawn for his first start as a three year-old and won driving clear going a mile. His pace numbers dropped off at Churchill but did pick back up on the ship to Hot Springs, so he could be dangerous in this spot. The breeding is not quite what you would like to see in a Derby contender, but going 8 1/2 furlongs it might be about the right distance. Or as far as his legs will take him in my opinion. TRUE ODDS: 9/2
MY CHOICES in order:
#11 – ONE LINER
#4 – LOOKIN AT LEE
#3 – UNCONTESTED
#8 – PETROV
#13 – CHIEF KNOW IT ALL
#1 – COOL ARROW
#2 – SILVER DUST
#7 – WARRIOR’S CLUB
#9 – DILETTANTE