It should be a great day today at Oaklawn Park, with beautiful weather, a buzz of excitement in the air, and split divisions of the one-mile, Grade 3 Southwest Stakes to double our fun. After a few more days at the Hot Springs oval, I’ve become greatly impressed once again with the way the community rallies around the racing scene here. The day’s racing truly becomes an event at Oaklawn, and people here are just having a great time. One way to make the time even greater is to pick some winners and go home with more money in the wallet then when you began the day. I will be trying to do just that, and to that end, I offer up my full Southwest Stakes analysis.
The first division (Race 8) of the Southwest seems to be the slightly deeper and more wide open of the two Kentucky Derby preps today. My top selection will be the Jerry Hollendorfer trained shipper, Longview Drive. The son of Pulpit is both well-traveled and a model of consistency, having never run a poor race. The Southwest will mark his seventh lifetime start, with each coming at a different track. He has experience at smaller tracks which should serve him well with Oaklawn’s short stretch at the mile distance, and he comes in off his lifetime best performance when he finished a game third in the Sham Stakes at today’s distance. Longview Drive also sports a sharp work over the surface and should sit a nice stalking trip under rider, Martin Garcia. Among the horses he will need to defeat to include the top two finishers from the recent Smarty Jones Stakes. Junebugred was a narrow winner that day, holding off the outside charge of Reckless Jerry. It would be no surprise to see either of them in the picture today, but of the two I like Reckless Jerry slightly better, as he’s the one who lost all the ground in the Smarty Jones, and is the more experienced of the pair. Junebugred will have to continue his sharp improvement to add to his two race winning streak. Jake Mo is the most interesting of the longshots, as he’s had some poor racing luck in the past, but seems to be coming around at Oaklawn. In the Smarty Jones he contested a busy early pace and held well to finish less than two lengths away from the win. Of the rest, Castaway and Unbridled’s Note are real wildcards in the field. Castaway has been steadily improving for trainer Bob Baffert and comes in off an impressive maiden score in California, while Unbridled’s Note has been away for nearly four months since scoring an impressive debut victory at Churchill Downs. He could be any kind, but will need to be a really good one to win this race off such little experience. Finally, Laurie’s Rocket has run plenty of good races and must be respected under rider, Calvin Borel.
Division two (Race 9) of the Southwest has a clearer cut favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint victor, Secret Circle. He may have suffered his first defeat last time in the Sham, but it offered great experience at the distance, and a repeat of that performance should be enough to get the job done today for the classy horse who will be ridden by top rider, Rafael Bejarano. With my top choice being the chalk, I am looking for some odds underneath, and that spot will be filled by big longshot, Big Wednesday. Away since last fall, the son of Repent finished off a solid juvenile season with an impressive stakes score at Presque Isle Downs in which he blew by the field at 6 ½ furlongs. The added distance should be no problem, and a series of workouts locally should have him ready today. Among the rest to watch, Adirondack King ships in with excellent form from Parx Racing and Tampa Bay Downs for trainer John Servis, Scatman has only sprinted so far to date, but has scored sharply in last two, including a nice win over the track three weeks ago, and Cyber Secret rebounded from a disastrous Oaklawn debut, to romp over an optional claiming field here just 16 days ago.