Returning from a layoff is Grade 1 winner Sporting Chance, who will face off against returning Smarty Jones Stakes winner Mourinho and a slew of developing Derby prospects.
What could make the race more interesting is the chance of rain in the Hot Springs, Arkansas, area on Monday. Seven Trumpets, the runner-up in a muddy Jerome Stakes, could use that to his advantage over those who have only run on fast tracks so far.
Here's a look at the field with early odds by Horse Racing Nation:
1.) My Boy Jack, 25-1
(Creative Cause – Keith Desormeaux/Kent Desormeaux –
7:1-3-1 – $125,145): He picked up two Kentucky Derby points from a third-place run in the
Sham Stakes (G3), finishing 7 ½ lengths behind the winner, McKinzie. His best
performances have been on turf, where he was a close second in the Del Mar
Juvenile Turf Stakes and broke his maiden in the Zuma Beach Stakes. The water stays deep.
2.) Sporting Chance, 7-2 (Tiznow – D. Wayne Lukas/Luis Saez – 3:2-1-0 – $269,140): The Southwest marks his first race since winning the Hopeful Stakes (G1) during the Saratoga meet. The colt ducked out in the stretch, nearly dumped Luis Saez, and corrected in time to win by a neck. Although he hasn’t raced in five months, he’s put in a handful of bullet works at Oaklawn Park since coming back from a knee chip. Will he be the same after the layoff?
3.) Principe Guilherme, 5-1 (Tapit – Steve Asmussen/Florent Geroux – 3:2-1-0 – $101,800): This colt drew a lot of attention after his winning debut and went on to score an impressive allowance victory. While he had it his way up front in his first two races, he had to take on stakes company and a wide post in the Lecomte Stakes, and still managed second in his first real test. He is cross-entered in Saturday’s Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds. Will scratch here in favor of Risen Star.
4.) Mourinho, 3-1 (Super Saver – Bob Baffert/Drayden Van Dyke – 4:2-2-0 – $154,360): The competition looks tougher than his last visit to Oaklawn, but Mourinho already has experience and a 3 ¼-length front-running victory over the track. Within the past few weeks the Smarty Jones winner has had two six-furlong works and one at seven furlongs at his Santa Anita base. The extra sixteenth of a mile doesn’t look like it will be a problem. The horse to beat.
5.) Road to Damascus, 15-1 (Pioneerof the Nile – Todd Pletcher/John Velazquez – 2:1-0-0 – $13,700): Road to Damascus broke his maiden with a hard-fought neck victory at Tampa Bay Downs. With only two starts and one win, he’ll have to throw in a big effort off what little experience he has. Not the best from Pletcher's barn.
6.) Seven Trumpets, 8-1 (Morning Line – Dale Romans/Robby Albarado – 4:2-1-0 – $104,400): Following an impressive maiden and allowance score, Seven Trumpets gave Firenze Fire a run for his money in the Jerome Stakes, finishing second by half a length. It was a good first stakes effort, especially considering the track conditions, but the field is looking even tougher in the Southwest. Needs to improve from the last start.
7.) Retirement Fund, 10-1 (Eskendereya – Steve Asmussen/Shaun Bridgmohan – 2:2-0-0 – $50,400): Another one to watch from the Steve Asmussen barn, Retirement Fund won his debut by 7 ¼ lengths at Fair Grounds and followed that with a two-length allowance score, both at 1 mile and 70 yards. The Southwest will be his first time racing at a different track, and his post position will make it harder to grab the lead outside Mourinho and possibly Principe Guilherme. Nice Derby prospect testing stakes waters.
8.) Zing Zang, 12-1 (Tapit – Steve Asmussen/Corey Lanerie – 4:1-0-0 – $34,845): Fourth in the Lecomte, his first stakes race, the maiden winner showed he could compete with his Derby hopeful stablemates, but the Southwest is still going to have some tough competition to beat out for more Derby points. The longer the race, the better for this colt. Should learn from previous Derby prep.
9.) Kentucky Club, 30-1 (Oxbow – D. Wayne Lukas/Ramon Vazquez – 6:1-0-0 – $22,040): After failing to hit the board in five maiden special weights, Kentucky Club drew off in his first start of 2018 to win by eight lengths at Oaklawn Park. The drawback is that his win came in maiden claiming company on a sloppy track, and the Southwest will feature horses with more experience and better resumes. Doesn't seem to fit here.
10.) Combatant, 6-1 (Scat Daddy – Steve Asmussen/Ricardo Santana Jr. – 4:1-2-0 – $148,550): Runner-up in both the Remington Springboard Mile and the Smarty Jones, Combatant has finished behind some nice West Coast Derby prospects in Greyvitos and Mourinho. He’ll have to face Mourinho again, as well as some competitive newcomers, but has finished well in a couple Midwest Derby preps. Is knocking on the door of a win.
11.) Ezmosh, 20-1 (Tizway – Brad Cox/Gary Stevens – 6:1-2-1 – $70,280): After running sixth in both the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and the Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion Stakes, Ezmosh made a nice 3-year-old debut in Oaklawn allowance company. He finished second to Bravazo – who is entered in the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds – by a neck, but the stakes competition is continuing to progress. Bravazo's Risen Star will tell us more.