A field of twelve sophomores will enter the gate in The Southwest Stakes (Gr.3) at Oaklawn Park this holiday Monday with Derby aspirations on their minds. The field includes the much anticipated 2014 debuts of the highly touted Strong Mandate and Tapiture, as well as several newcomers who I believe could make a splash on the 2014 Kentucky Derby Trail. I have a feeling this is going to be a productive race moving forward, so I suggest we watch this one closely. Without further ado, let’s get to know the field and take a look at the pace scenario…
Pace – This race on paper appears absolutely loaded with speed. By my estimation, I see about six horses that like to either be on the lead, or very close to it. I have to think this will be won from off the pace so those are the horses I will be looking for on the win end.
1. Tapiture – This Steve Asmussen trained colt will make his much anticipated 2014 bow after last being seen breaking his maiden with style in the Kentucky Jockey Club (Gr. 2) at Churchill Downs in November. The field that day was questionable, but I liked what I saw from him visually. He has been working well for his return and I think he may sit a perfect trip just behind all of the speed. He hasn’t been off the board in four career starts and I look forward to seeing how he will run today. I view him as a contender.
2. Coastline – This colt made his 2014 debut in the Smarty Jones Stakes here at Oaklawn Park last month and I think he may have needed that race. I was torn about his performance after the race. He had excuses, but I thought he still did not look that impressive. He broke widest of all and was about four wide going into the first turn. After that though he settled into a nice pressing trip, but never looked like a winner while finishing third. After careful consideration, I am going to say he needed that race and that he will improve off of it. And given what I estimate to be today’s pace scenario, I give him a big shot in here today. I consider him a definite contender.
3. Tanzanite Cat – This colt surprised me in his last by taking down top honors in the Smarty Jones. I did not like him that day, as it was his first start verses winners and over a route of ground, but he proved me wrong. He did the dirty work up front through quick fractions and I thought it was a fine win. While I do believe he is nice horse, given today’s added ground and pace scenario, I will side against him. He does seem like a tough customer though, and I do find it interesting Nakatani comes in to ride, but I will have to limit his use to underneath.
4. Louies Flower – This was my first look at this colt and I have to say I was impressed watching his victory in the Springboard Mile. He raced crazy wide into the first turn and then raced three wide throughout the rest of the running. He took over going into the stretch and then still had enough late to hold off a fast closing foe for the win. As for today, I feel he will be another contestant that will be compromised by pace. I will pass on him for that reason.
5. Kendall’s Boy – I know I sound like a broken record, but here is another that I think will be up on the pace and thus compromising his chances for the win. He is stretching out from a sprint and should be up close. I will have to pass today.
6. Paganol – While I thought his maiden win was very exciting and entertaining, I think he is in over his head today. He won that day, at first asking, over a track labeled good going six panels. I just think he has too many questions to answer today to back him on the win end. It will be his first try on dry dirt, his first try routing, and his first try verses winners. For those reasons stated I will have to pass.
7. Walt – He is another who surprised me by his performance in the Smarty Jones. But, much like Tanzanite Cat, I am taking a pass on him today for pace reasons.
8. Strong Mandate – I was eagerly awaiting this colt’s return to the races after last seeing him in a valiant effort in the BC Juvenile. He broke from the 13-hole that day and set a wicked pace while still having enough late to somehow hold on for the show. He has been working well in the morning for his 2014 debut and will retain the elite services of Joel Rosario. While I did think that his effort in the Breeders’ Cup was terrific, it was the first time I was really impressed with him. I did not hold him in as high of a regard as others before that effort. So with all that said, I am going to take a stand against him today. I do not believe the pace scenario is beneficial to his chances today so I will limit his use underneath. I will be prepared to eat humble pie if he blows the doors off this field and proves me wrong.
9. Ride on Curlin – This colt is kind of tricky to figure out. He has put up a few very nice efforts with big figs, but his worst start and lowest fig came the only time he went two turns. Add that to the fact he will probably be up close on the pace and I will have to say I will pass. I just feel he does his best running on the lead or close to it and that he will not get a nice trip today.
10. Son of Dixie – While I am against this colt on the win end, I think he is very usable underneath at what should be a nice price. His last race was in the slop here at Oaklawn Park in a N1X where he was on the lead hounded the whole way. He was good enough to hold on for third that day and I think he should show a fine account of his abilities today. While he was on the lead in that day I think that had more to do with the track condition and he should go back to his usual style of pressing or stalking today. His race two back, a N1X at Churchill downs, came back very live as the top two finishers, Conquest Titan and General a Rod, came back to run very nicely next out in their respective races, The Holy Bull and LeComte. I picture him getting a trip a lot like he did in that race, which is stalking the pace. I consider him to maybe have a small shot on the win end, but a very good chance to hit the board at a nice price.
11. Fire Starter – In his first start verses winners in the Smarty Jones he had a pretty tough trip. He was rank and wide into the first turn, and then raced in between horses the rest of the way. He did show interest late, but never looked like a winner. In his maiden breaking score he closed nicely, but I thought he got the perfect set up that day. I am going to pass on the win end with him, but I do give him a shot to hit the board.
12. Bourbonize – I must admit I found this colt a little bit interesting. He had a nice maiden breaking score at Churchill Downs at first asking and he followed that up with a convincing score in a N1X here at Oaklawn Park last month. He was visually impressive in the win here at Oaklawn Park, but I have a feeling he might have just really enjoyed the sloppy track that day. If he had a better post today I might have considered him more on the win end. I think the pace dynamics of this race really suit his stalking style, but since he is breaking widest of all I am going to limit his use to underneath. I will say I do really look forward to seeing how handles today’s task.
The Play – I am going to take a shot with Coastline in here by keying him in a Trifecta. I believe he has a right to improve and that he will benefit from the pace scenario. I will back that up with an Exacta keying Tapiture along with Coastline on top. If I were to be playing multi-race wagers I would use those two along with Strong Mandate possibly, out of fear alone. If I had room to add one more I might be willing to add Bourbonize.
50 cent Trifecta Part Wheel will cost $15 – 2 with 1-8-12 with ALL
2 dollar Exacta Part Wheel will cost $16 – 1-2 with 1-2-8-10-12
I think this race has a lot of potential and I very much am looking forward to it. i hope this break down helped you sure up your own opinions or turned you onto something you may not have thought of. I will try to have my post-race takeaways up by the middle of nest week. As always, I wish you luck on all your wagers.
Have a winning day, folks.