Mourinho a solid favourite in 2018 Southwest Stakes, but longshots not out of it
Southwest Stakes-G3, Oaklawn Park
Race 9, Monday, February 19, 2018
Distance: 1 1/16-miles. Surface: Dirt. Purse: $500,000
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3. Seven Trumpets
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Southwest Stakes Analysis
Mourinho will be the deserving favorite in the 53rd running of the $500,000 Southwest Stakes-G3 on Monday, February 19 at Oaklawn Park, but there are also a few longshots that could make the exotic wagers pay in this key Kentucky Derby prep.
A relatively easy winner off the layoff in his last as the lone speed in the Smarty Jones going a mile at Oaklawn Park on January 15, Mourinho likely doesn’t need the lead to win, but he will need a race as good as his last to win this. If he improves at all off his 2018 opener, he’ll be even tougher to beat.
Mourinhos class speed could have him hounding Sporting Chance and a few other possible speed horses from the start, and he does have a fitness edge on Sporting Chance. Trainer Bob Baffert has also won this race four times and is currently operating at a 37% clip with last-out winners repeating.
Mourinho is the horse to beat at a short price.
Sporting Chance has both speed and class but hasn’t run since winning last year’s Hopeful Stakes-G1 at Saratoga. He should be the class speed in here, and Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas thinks he has him tight enough to win. There is other unproven speed in here, but it might not be enough to take the wind out of this guys sails despite the long layoff. A theft is possible, and the morning line odds of 9/2 are enticing.
Seven Trumpets made his first start back off the layoff in the muddy Jerome Stakes going a mile at Aqueduct on January 13 and just failed to hold after setting a slow pace. He lost by half a length and he was clearly tired in the drive yet he kept digging in. This guy has some courage, he’s proven from off the pace and if the Jerome didn’t take too much out of him he could be the longshot play at morning-line odds of 10-1.
Lukas also saddles an interesting longshot in Kentucky Club. Listed at 30-1 on the morning line, Kentucky Club made his first start as a 3-year-old off a two-month layoff going a mile on a sloppy track at Oaklawn Park and won by eight lengths over $30,000 maiden claimers. He was roughed up at the start in that race, dropped back to last and made a visually impressive bullet move on the final turn to surge to the lead and draw off as much the best.
Kentucky Club ran a lifetime best Beyer Speed Figure of 75 in that race and he couldn’t get above 50 last year. He’s obviously improved and another move forward puts him in the Southwest Superfecta at a big price, especially if there is a contested pace. If there’s a surprise package in this race it’s this guy.
Zuma Beach Stakes winner My Boy Jack made his second start on the dirt, and first since finishing seventh beaten three lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on January 6, and was both keen and uncomfortable inside early before flattening out in the stretch. He should move forward off that race, and he’s always been a competitive sort, but his true dirt form has yet to be revealed and he’ll certainly need a big move forward here.
Combatant finished second to Mourinho in the Smarty Jones and really had no chance to catch that one as the lone speed. He’s still on the improve for trainer Steve Asmussen but he will need a contested pace to make it into the exactor. Asmussen will likely saddle three horses in this race and Combatant gives him his best chance to win.
Asmussen will also saddle Retirement Fund, who remained perfect in two starts when he won an N1X allowance in wire-to-wire fashion while setting a slow pace at Fairgrounds going a mile and seventy yards on January 20.
Asmussen’s third entry in the race is Zing Zang, an out-of-the-clouds rallier who was impressive weaving his way through the field to break his maiden at Fair Grounds two starts ago, but clearly only fourth best beaten seven lengths in the Lecomte Stakes-G3 at Fair Grounds on January 13 going a mile and seventy yards. He fits in third and fourth in your Southwest Superfectas, but looks like he would need a complete and total pace melt down to win this. He does however, fit the angle of a horse running decent first time up in class and then coming right back against similar. The problem is that these are better horses than he met in his last race.
Road to Damascus has the Todd Pletcher-John Velazquez team behind him and they’re winning at a 30% clip together, but this horse just broke his maiden at Tampa Bay and was all out to do so. He’ll need a huge step forward to beat these.
Ezmosh is a stakes-placed speed horse who made his first start off a 10-week layoff at Oaklawn Park going a mile on January 13 and missed by only a neck after setting a fast pace. He’s another sleeper in here that could improve, and he does appear to have some heart, but he will face some class speed in here and will have to run the race of his life to turn back the other speed and hold on for a share. Top jock Gary Stevens taking the call makes him a longshot speed play of you’re so inclined.