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Derby Prep Preview: G3-Southwest Stakes

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In recent years, the Derby prep races at Oaklawn Park have produced some of the strongest contenders to make their way to Louisville.  Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Curlin, and Lawyer Ron are just a few of the names that have made their way to Chruchill Downs after running in Arkansas. 

Toiday, Oaklawn Park kicks off their graded stakes for three year olds with the G3-Southwest, a one mile test featuring ten colts hoping to take another step closer to the first Saturday in May.  It's expected to be cold, yet dry in Hot Springs today, which should make for fast conditions on the dirt track.

G3-Southwest Stakes
Oaklawn Park
1 mile
Three Year Olds

PP

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

ML

1

Kitty's Turn

Albarado R J

Thomas Gary A

12-1

2

Conveyance

Gomez G K

Baffert Bob

5-2

3

Cardiff Giant

Santiago Reyes C

Periban Jorge

12-1

4

Mission Impazible

Velazquez J R

Pletcher Todd A

6-1

5

Domonation

Nakatani C S

Sadler John W

8-1

6

Dryfly

Borel C H

Whiting Lynn S

3-1

7

Crider

Quinonez L S

Asmussen Steven M

20-1

8

Cool Bullet

Hernandez B J Jr

Margolis Steve

12-1

9

Pleasant Storm

McNeil B

Petalino Joe

8-1

10

Dublin

Thompson T J

Lukas D Wayne

9-2

The Southwest Stakes is a two-turn mile at a track that has a very short stretch run after coming off the final turn.  As such, the deep closers are going to be in a tough position while horses on or near the lead should be at an advantage (assuming the track isn't playing differently).  

1-Kitty's Turn: Third by four lengths in his last effort in the one mile Smarty Jones at this very same track.  As a stone cold closer, this colt is going to need a hot pace and a clear trip to have a chance at an upset in this spot.  In that last race, Kitty's Turn came home in with a final quarter mile of 26.29, the fastest of the entire field.  That's good that he finished up the best but that's not exactly lighting up the board.  The track was labeled as "GOOD" that day and the times suggest that the track may have been tiring at that point.


I'm not sure what to do with this colt: the race shape and track profile don't necessarily suit him but he appears to have some talent.  Might look good in an exacta or trifecta play.

2-Conveyance: A California shipper under the taining of Bob Baffert, Conveyance will make his first career start on conventional dirt in this race, which always adds a bit of uncertainty to the analysis.  This colt wired the field in the G3-San Rafael at Santa Anita Park in his last race.  If he takes to the track he will be very dangerous.

3-Cardiff Giant: Runner-up to Conveyance in the San Rafael, this is another California shipper making his debut on real dirt.  This horse ran in a claiming race back in late November only to graduate to bigger and better things.  His race three back, a race restricted to California breds, doesn't looks that good now after the winner, Tiz Chome, was easily beaten in the G2-Robert B. Lewis on Saturday.  Still, if you like Conveyance it's hard not to like Cardiff Giant, as well.

4-Mission Impazible: A lightly raced Todd Pletcher trainee that only has a maiden score at Keeneland under his belt.  He ran a decent race in the Kentucky Juvenile last April and then wasn't seen again until an Allowance event at Gulfstream Park on January 9th.  This is another colt where we have some questions about the surface on which he's been running.  His first race was on the Poly at Keeneland, his second on a "GOOD" track at Churchill, and the third over a SLOPPY and sealed track at Gulfstream.  Kind of an unknown as to his form over a FAST surface.  Tough call.

5-Domonation: Another Californian shipping in out of the San Rafael.  Another that's never touched a conventional dirt surface.  Another that comes out of the Cal-bred Stuka Stakes with Tiz Chrome.  With this many West Coast invaders you pretty much have to decide whether you think they match-up with their East Coast and Midwest brethren; if you think they are outclassed or that their form won't transfer to dirt they become an easy toss.  

6-Dryfly: Controlled the Smarty Jones the entire way to earn a win at this track and distance on January 18th.  He draws right in the middle of the field which should allow him to negotiate good posiiton heading into the first turn.  And while mile races at Oaklawn generally play towards speed, that Smarty Jones effort looks a lot better when you consider that he was the only speed horse to hold his position throughout the race.  Gotta respect his form over this track.

7-Crider: Ran evenly in the Smarty Jones after displaying a stalking style in his previous two efforts. This colt doesn't really look like he's got the speed or the class to take the win in this spot.  Note that trainer Steve Asmussen's top rider, Robby Albarado, elects to ride the 1 instead of this colt.

8-Cool Bullet: A Fair Grounds shipper that fell apart in deep stretch of the G3-LeComte (along with the rest of the field) after stalking a moderate early pace.  That was this colt's first try at two-turns so he may be eligible for improvement today, or he may turn out to just prefer sprint distances.  He rates as a couple notches behind Dryfly and the Californians in my mind.

9-Pleasant Storm: Another colt coming out of the Smarty Jones, and like the rail horse, this one closed from deep in the pack to finish second to the winner.  Two horses that made big closing moves in a mile race at Oaklawn?  That kind of tells me that the track may really have been tiring that day.  If it was the case I tend to upgrade Dryfly's performance and downgrade that of the two closers, Kitty's Turn and Pleasant Storm.

10-Dublin: Of all the entries in this field this is the colt that I really want to see.  A son of Alfeet Alex out of a Storm Bird mare, Dublin scored impressive wins at Saratoga last summer before going off form in the G1-Champaign and the G3-Iroquois.  He's had some time off to refresh and has shown a very solid line of works at this track leading up to this race.  I love the pedigree and the early talent he displayed but I'm a little concerned that he was so bad when stretching out to a mile.  Still, this will be his first attempt at two-turns which may provide the wake up call that this colt needs.  He's 9/2 on the morning line but I doubt we'll see anything close to that come post time as I suspect he'll get bet down to around 5/2.

The Pick

This looks like an exceptionally tough and competitive race with a lot of different directions a player can go - Cal shippers, local winners, talented but green coming off a layoff...you name it, there's a horse in here.  I think Dryfly's Southwest is really an underrated race when you look back on it and if he's able to get out and control the pace in this spot he becomes a dangerous proposition.  In the end, however, I'm going to go in the direction of Dublin.  If he's able to display any of the talent that won him those two races at Saratoga he could put up a big performance.  My only concern is that the odds board stays generous.