2017 Southwest Stakes-G3, Race 9, Oaklawn Park, Monday, February 20, 2017
3-Year-Olds, 1 1/16-miles, Dirt, Purse: $500,000
It's a good day to go longshot hunting in the 52nd running of the Southwest Stakes-G3 at Oaklawn Park today, with a 13-horse field running over what will probably be a sloppy track.
Morning-line favourite Uncontested wired a bunch of these in his last out in the sloppy Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park on January 16, but there is more speed today and logic says it should set up for closers.
Thunder showers are predicted before the Southwest and although Uncontested obviously likes a wet track, he's not likely to skip away on an easy lead today. Of course that's a possibility, but we're betting against it.
There are at least four other speed horses in the Southwest including Chief Know It All, P C Cowboy, One Liner and Cool Arrow, although rumors are that Cool Arrow will be scratched. Even one of the longshots we like, Hence, could try for the lead if he wanted to. But the most interesting of the new speed horses Uncontested will face is One Liner, a Todd Pletcher trainee that arrives from Gulfstream Park off a win in a six furlong NWOT Allowance race.
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One Liner is undefeated in two starts. He broke his maiden from just off the pace in a 5 1/2-furlong Maiden Special Weight race at Saratoga last summer, and after winning his first and only start this year it's Kentucky Derby exam time. He seemed to have a bit of a choppy stride in the Gulfstream Park win, but that could have been because he was rating just back of the speed. He looks like he has just enough pedigree to stretch out in the Southwest and he has enough natural speed to be on or near the lead, which should make it much tougher for Uncontested.
After watching a number of mediocre "Derby" preps this year we're looking for any horse to step up and show something that at least adds some excitement to the Derby picture this year. Maybe we just got spoiled watching Arrogate, who looks like he could be a combination of Phar Lap and Secretariat. Yes. he's an older horse, but that's not the point. We've seen nothing even remotely close to his talent level in this year's crop of 3-year-olds.
On that note, we'll take a shot in the Southwest on two longshots that showed a little out of the ordinary in their last starts. Florent Geroux ships in two ride Dilettante (15-1) for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, and he should be able to sit just back of the speed in the Southwest. In his last start going a mile at Oaklawn Park, he made multiple moves inside while sitting just off the pace and then surged to the lead when it counted, winning by 2 3/4-lengths and leaving the favourite in his wake. He also got a nice 88 Beyer Speed Figure for that win, the second best last-race Beyer Speed Figure in the race after Uncontested's inflated lone speed 96.
The second horse we'll take a shot on in the Southwest is Hence, a Calumet Farm-bred trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen. Hence ran an exceptional race to break his maiden in his last start on January 16 in the slop at Oaklawn. He stumbled mildly at the start, tracked a moderately forced pace from the outside after a half mile, and surged to the lead outside his stablemate into the stretch. That's when things went awry. He cleared to the lead and looked ready to draw away, but he drifted in greenly and almost fell down in mid-stretch. He was then passed by his stablemate, but somehow fought back to win by three-quarters of a length. Hence is moving up in class for the Southwest, but he's proven in the mud, has an excellent mud/stamina pedigree, and the race should set up for him. Listed at 20-1, we think he could be a big overlay.
A few others to consider for in-the-money finishes. Petrov chased Uncontested in the Smarty Jones and had no chance to beat him as the lone speed. He did give his best in defeat to finish second however, and should get a better setup today. Lookin At Lee is the class play based on his second-place finishes in the Iroquois Stakes-G3 and Breeders' Futurity-G1 last year, along with a fourth place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile-G1, but he looks like a bit of a plodder. Consider using him underneath in your Southwest Superfectas and Trifectas.
Because of the enticing overlay odds, we'll be betting both Hence and Dilettante to win and place, combining them in an Exacta, wheeling them up and down in Exactas with all, and using each of them first and second in our Trifectas and Superfectas. We'll use the other horses we mentioned here in your Superfectas and Trifectas, but we'll also likely use All in a few spots on our Superfectas. There are a number of horses that could rally into third and fourth in this race, and almost all of them will go off at big odds.
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