Derby Trail Stakes Preview – Southwest Stakes

The Road to the Arkansas Derby continues on Monday at Oaklawn Park with the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes, headed by Uncontested, the runaway winner of last month’s Smarty Jones.

Several return from last month’s Smarty Jones (our recap is here), with some intriguing new faces as well. Let’s take a look at the field.

1 – Cool Arrow (12-1) – If someone can got with Uncontested, it might be him, though I don’t know if he’s fast enough. Either way, his win in the Springboard Mile was aided by a very slow pace and he was no match for Warrior’s Club two-back. Prefer others.

2 – Silver Dust (10-1) – He broke slow and was very green in his October debut before returning a winning going a one-turn mile at Churchill on November 20th. This will be his first start around two-turns, but that shouldn’t be a problem for this son of Tapit. I think this horse might be pretty good for trainer Randy Morse and is going to be a big part of the play.

3 – Uncontested (5-2) – We don’t expect that he’ll be 5-2 (that would be a very fair price), but the impressive Smarty Jones winner is more than just a one-race wonder. He ran a big race when setting a fast pace behind McCraken in the Kentucky Jockey Club after a sprint debut win. He’s going to play catch me if you can again and they’ll have a tough time doing that. If there is one knock, it’s that there is probably a little more pace in this race. But that might not be enough to get him beat today.

4 – Lookin’ at Lee (8-1) – This deep closer figures to get a big pace to attack for his first start since the Breeders Cup Juvenile. He’s a plodder though and we thought he basically was picking up pieces in his last two races, albeit races against Classic Empire.

5 – Rowdy the Warrior (20-1) – He was our underneath key in the Smarty Jones after a very tough trip behind a slow pace in the Springboard Mile at Remington. Last time, he ran fine, but didn’t really threaten Uncontested. If the fast pace he needs develops, it will help several others as well, and with seven starts already under his belt, it’s fair to question his remaining upside. Underneath use only.

6 – Cu Rahy (50-1) – He was dusted in the Smarty Jones and again last time in an allowance race and appears overmatched.

7 – Warrior’s Club (12-1) – He ran fine in the Kentucky Jockey Club two back and didn’t have much punch in the Smarty Jones last time, though perhaps he didn’t care for the slop. Still, he’s another with eight starts already and it’s fair to question his upside. His big win, the Spendthrift Stakes, was aided by a very slow pace as well. I just think he’s a cut below at this point.

8 – Petrov (5-1) – He’s moving in the right direction figure-wise and was in a tough spot last time out chasing Uncontested and then having to try to finish – he did fine to finish a clear second but didn’t threaten the winner. It should be noted that none of his four siblings to win were route winners, only sprint winners, so the extra 16th of a mile might not be to his advantage. He also figures to be chasing a solid pace today. I like him as a horse, but we’ll try to keep him out of the exacta as the third choice.

9 – Dilettante (15-1) – He broke through in his 8th start with a nice win that earned an 88 Beyer, second best in the field, and far and away his career best. If he repeats, he’ll be right there, but it should be noted that several others in the race had big figure jumps too. He’s a threat on a repeat, but I don’t see a repeat.

10 – Hence (20-1) – This late runner for Steve Asmussen broke his maiden last time at 1-2 on a sloppy track. He did defeat a next-out winner, but that horse saw his figure fall 5 points in the repeat victory. He drew a poor post and seems like he’s in a tough position against much tougher horses.

11 – One Liner (7-2) – Todd Pletcher ships this horse up from Gulfstream after an allowance win on January 26th, which came in his first start off a six month layoff. He’s obviously very talented, but is going to have to be used early from the 11 post. That won’t be an easy task especially since he might be in the chasing position behind Uncontested.

12 – PC Cowboy (30-1) – He makes his first start for new trainer John Ortiz after finishing third in an allowance race going a mile on January 27th. He could be forwardly placed, but looks overmatched against these.

13 – Chief Know It All (12-1) – He wired an allowance race for Brad Cox on January 27th (beating PC Cowboy) but is in a very tough spot from this 13 post. Plus, his best races have come on the lead, which is hard to see happening with Uncontested in the field. You have to respect his outstanding trainer Brad Cox, but this is a tall order.

Projected Pace – It should be solid enough. Uncontested is likely to go to the lead and is fast enough to clear early, but there are more horses to push him along than last time. Will that be enough to get him beat?

Analysis – To answer our last question…doubt it. He just looks like the best horse in the field to us. One Liner and Petrov will be the second and third choices, and they are going to be the ones we’ll play against. Both have to chase and finish with some fairly promising late runners behind them.

Play – Uncontested looks very tough, but we’ll play him over Silver Dust, Lookin at Lee, and a little Rowdy the Warrior. We’ll reverse for a little bit as well, but the main play will be Uncontested over Silver Dust and Lookin at Lee. If Silver Dust is at least 10-1, we’ll have a few bucks on him to win.

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