First look: Three Kentucky Derby preps lead weekend stakes

First look: Three Kentucky Derby preps lead weekend stakes
Photo: Carolyn Simancik / Eclipse Sportswire

It looks like the third time indeed will be the charm for the 2021 debuts of Brad Cox stars Essential Quality and Monomoy Girl.

After weather-related postponements the last two weeks, Oaklawn is scheduled Saturday to hold the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes — a Kentucky Derby points prep pitching Essential Quality against Jackie's Warrior, Keepmeinmind and Spielberg — and the Bayakoa (G3) on Sunday, with champion older dirt female Monomoy Girl making her return.

[RELATED: Of 198 horses, who still carries value for the Kentucky Derby?]

Gulfstream hosts points preps Saturday for the Kentucky Derby with the Fountain of Youth (G2) and for the Kentucky Oaks with the Davona Dale (G2). And on Friday, Turfway's ungraded John Battaglia Memorial offers 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby points to the top four finishers.

Here's an early look at the fields for this weekend's biggest stakes.

Kentucky Derby preps

$750,000 Southwest (G3), Oaklawn, 1 1/16 miles, 3-year-olds

You have seen four of these colts listed the last two weeks: Essential Quality, Keepmeinmind, Jackie's Warrior and Last Samurai. But Oaklawn received late nominations for four more colts: Hush of a Storm, Notable Exception, Santa Cruiser and Spielberg.

Any 3-year-old trained by Bob Baffert draws attention, but Spielberg has only two wins in his seven starts. His win by a nose in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) was followed by a fourth-place loss to stablemate Medina Spirit in the Robert G. Lewis (G3). Jack Sisterson's Notable Exception also is entered in Friday's John Battaglia Memorial Stakes, but he has been training at Palm Meadows and a change of plans might be in the works for this Calumet homebred.

The race offers Kentucky Derby points to the top four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 basis.

2021 Southwest Stakes (G3)

$300,000 Fountain of Youth (G2), Gulfstream, 1 1/16 miles, 3-year-olds

Greatest Honour will follow up his 5 3/4-length score in the Holy Bull (G3) for trainer Shug McGaughey. That was the second win for the Courtland Farms homebred, who broke his maiden in December and has finished in the money in each of his five starts.

Fire at Will could return to dirt here after winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf last out and the Pilgrim (G2) on Belmont's turf track before that. His only start on dirt was when he broke his maiden at Saratoga in the seven-furlong, off-the-turf With Anticipation Stakes in September.

Saffie Joseph Jr. said Sunday that he had yet to decide whether Drain the Clock and Moonlite Strike will start here. The Gotham (G3) on March 6 at Aqueduct is another option for Drain the Clock, who has won all four of the races he has finished.

This race offers 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Derby points.

2021 Fountain of Youth (G2)

$100,000 John Battaglia Memorial, Turfway, 1 1/16 miles (synthetic), 3-year-olds

Gretzky the Great's sixth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf followed three straight wins. Catman has had six starts at six tracks with one win: the Laurel Futurity at Pimlico.

Brad Cox also has entered Kinetic Sky in the Black Gold at Fair Grounds. And Notable Exception instead could run in the Southwest for Jack Sisterson. He has not won in two tries since graduating in September.

The Battaglia Memorial pays Derby points on a 10-4-2-1 basis and is a prep for the $250,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) on March 27.

2021 John Battaglia Memorial (LS)

Kentucky Oaks prep

$200,000 Davona Dale (G2), Gulfstream, 1 mile, 3-year-old fillies

2020 2-year-old champion filly Vequist makes her 2021 debut here for Butch Reid. The daughter of Nyquist won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last out, avenging a loss to Dayoutoftheoffice in the Frizette (G1). Dreaming of Drew makes her first start outside of Woodbine, where she won the Princess Elizabeth last out in October. Curlin's Catch was fifth in the Princess Elizabeth but has won both her starts since.

This race offers 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Oaks points to the top four finishers.

2021 Davona Dale (G2)

Other graded stakes – Saturday

$125,000 Canadian Turf (G3), Gulfstream, 1 1/16 miles (turf), 4-year-olds and up

Winters Back has two firsts and two seconds in his last four starts for Todd Pletcher and would be making his graded stakes debut. Venezuelan Hug is coming off two straight wins in the Millions Turf Preview and the Sunshine Turf for trainer Danny Gargan. Saffie Joseph Jr. took over training of 7-year-old Monarchs Glen after he was claimed by Stefania Farms LLC for $75,000 following his last race in January. He has had one win in 10 starts since his last graded stakes, and that came in an allowance optional claiming race in November.

2021 Canadian Turf (G3)

$200,000 Mac Diarmida (G2), Gulfstream, 1 3/8 miles (turf), 4-year-olds and up

This is the third start for Admission Office after a seven-month layoff that followed his Louisville Stakes (G3) score. He finished seventh in the Tropical Turf (G3) and third in the Tampa Bay (G3) in his last two starts. Aquaphobia is coming off an eighth-place finish in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1). His last win was in the United National (G1) in July.

2021 Mac Diarmida (G2)

$125,000 The Very One (G3), Gulfstream, 1 3/16 miles (turf), fillies and mares, 4-year-olds and up

Always Shopping has three wins and a second in her last three starts, including a score in the La Prevoyante (G3) last out for trainer Todd Pletcher. Mark Casse's Heavenly Curlin followed up her win in the Maple Leaf (G3) with a fifth-place finish in the La Prevoyante last out.

2021 The Very One (G3)

$125,000 Honey Fox (G3), Gulfstream, 1 mile (turf), fillies and mares, 4-year-olds and up

After her runner-up effort in the Fourstardave (G1), Got Stormy won the Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint (G3) and the Franklin County Stakes (G3) before finishing fifth in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. Zofelle's victory in the Marshua's River (G3) came after a seven-month layoff, which followed a winless first half of 2020.

2021 Honey Fox (G3)

$100,000 Palm Beach, Gulfstream, 1 1/16 miles (turf), 3-year-olds

After breaking his maiden at Woodbine in November, Arzak won a one-mile allowance optional claiming race on the Tampa Bay turf last out. Chess's Dream's score in the Kitten Joy (G3) followed his graduation at Gulfstream in December.

2021 Palm Beach (G3)

$100,000 Herecomesthebride (G3), Gulfstream, 1 1/16 miles (turf), 3-year-old fillies

Con Lima won her first two starts after Todd Pletcher switched her to turf in December before a second-place finish in the Sweetest Chant (G3) on Jan. 30. Spanish Loveaffair came in second in the Jessamine (G2) and was sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Both of those races were won by undefeated Aunt Pearl.

2021 Herecomesthebride (G3)

$200,000 Gulfstream Park Mile (G2), Gulfstream, 1 mile, 4-year-olds and up

Performer had five straight wins for Shug McGaughey before finishing third to True Timber in the Cigar Mile (G1). He bounced back with a win in the Fred W. Hooper (G3). Eye of a Jedi finished second in both the Hooper and the Harlan's Holiday (G3) his last two outs.

2021 Gulfstream Park Mile (G2)

$600,000 Razorback (G3), Oaklawn, 1 1/16 miles, 4-year-olds and up

Owendale finished second in the Alysheba (G2) and the Pimlico Special (G3) before a fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and a third-place effort in the Clark (G1) last out. Long Range Toddy hasn't won since the 2019 Rebel Stakes (G2) and hasn't raced since May. Rated R Superstar, Parsimony and Silver Dust all were late nominees here.

2021 Razorback Handicap (G3)

Sunday

$250,000 Bayakoa (G3), Oaklawn, 1 1/16 miles, fillies and mares, 4-year-olds and up

Monomoy Girl will have the well-deserved stakes spotlight all to herself here Sunday. Steve Asmussen could challenge her with Finite, winner of the Chilukki (G3) before a fourth-place finish in the La Brea, and with Another Broad, who hasn't won since April 2019 but finished third in both the Falls City (G2) and the Allaire Dupont (G3).

2021 Bayakoa (G3)

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