Fast Pace Could Lead to Southwest Chaos

OaklawnLogoThe annual President’s Day feature at Oaklawn is the G3 Southwest Stakes, a Kentucky Derby prep race. Mourinho comes in after winning last month’s Smarty Jones, but meets a much tougher test today with a lot more speed signed on in what is a very interesting race.

Points – While Bravazo earned 50 points for his Risen Star win at Fair Grounds on Saturday, this race is only worth 10 points to the winner as this is the first of three remaining preps at Oaklawn and the Risen Star was the penultimate prep at Fair Grounds.

Let’s take a look at the field.

#1 My Boy Jack (12-1) – This Keith Desormeaux charge was no match for the ultra-impressive McKinzie in the Sham but ran about as fast as most of the others in here. He will be farther off the pace today, but he’s won from there on the grass, and unlike some of the other closers, he’ll be able to save ground. He’s a part of the play.

#2 Sporting Chance (9-2) – D Wayne Lukas won the Risen Star on Saturday and can win this race with Sporting Chance, winner of the Hopeful. The problem is of corse that he hasn’t run since the Hopeful. He’s also drawn inside the speed and figures to be forwardly placed in a race that should feature a fast pace.

#3 Principe Guilherme (4-1) – He’ll scratch after running on Saturday in the Risen Star. Note that everyone’s morning line is effectively too high because of his scratch.

#4 Mourinho (2-1) – The Smarty Jones last month featured a very slow pace as we noted here. That certainly flattered the Bob Baffert-trained Mourinho, who set fractions that were slower to the half than all three other mile races that day including a $30k maiden claimer. Today, he has to deal with a lot of other pace. Granted, he’s probably not a pure “need the lead” type but he’ll be up on the engine and the pace last time makes him look a lot better than he probably is.

#5 Road to Damascus (15-1) – Todd Pletcher sends up this one after a maiden-breaker at Tampa Bay. While he was on the pace that day, he figures to sit back today, but he’ll have to improve significantly to contend here.

#6 Seven Trumpets (10-1) – His 2018 debut was a second-place finish to Firenze Fire in that one’s preferred one-turn mile distance in last month’s Jerome at Aqueduct. The problem is in that race, he set a very slow pace and should have won. Now today, he’ll be chasing much faster fractions and will then have to hold off some solid late movers. We’re against.

#7 Retirement Fund (15-1) – Steve Asmussen sends this one up from New Orleans where he had 2-2 going long. He’ll be close to the fast pace in here, so the race doesn’t especially set up for him. Plus, in his allowance win last time, only one other horse was less than 10-1, so it wasn’t the best field, and Retirement Fund had a good trip on the pace.

#8 Zing Zang (15-1) – Zing Zang had a bit of a wide run in the Lecomte last month in New Orleans and was moving pretty well late, giving the impression he wants more ground and the stretch from 1 mile/70 yards to 1 1/16 miles today will help. The other thing that will help is the expected pace scenario of this race, and while he probably needs a complete meltdown, he just might get that here. We’re going elsewhere on top but he’s in the mix.

#9 Kentucky Club (30-1) – He’s another deep closer, this one for D Wayne Lukas. Unlike Zing Zang, however, Kentucky Club comes out of a $30k maiden-claimer that featured a fast pace and fell apart and was run in the slop. We’re looking elsewhere.

#10 Combatant (6-1) – He ran a very good race in the Smarty Jones last time, chasing Mourinho through slow fractions. He was sent after the leader on the far turn and kept trying all the way down to the wire. I wish he drew better (though he’ll move in to post nine after the scratch of Principe Guilherme), since he will be pressing the pace and want to tuck over a little bit, but keeps getting better for Steve Asmussen. He’s the pick.

#11 Ezmosh (12-1) – He ran a very good race last time in an Oaklawn allowance race beating Bravazo, who came back to upset the Risen Star on Saturday. He set a pretty strong pace that day and held on to just miss by a neck. This is a horse that’s always shown some promise, but the one time the tried to rate him, he fought the restraint in the Breeders Futurity. His best chance is on the engine and that might not fit today’s expected pace scenario.

The Pace – We’re expecting a strong pace here, a far different scenario than what Mourinho dealt with last month in the Smarty Jones. With Sporting Chance, Ezmosh, and to a lesser extent Retirement Fund and Seven Trumpets, the pace should be fast and the field should be strung out.

The Play – Combatant is our top selection and we’ll play him to win. We’ll play him to win and team him up in the exacta with Zing Zang and My Boy Jack, going for the complete collapse. Of the speed horses, we prefer Mourinho and Ezmosh and expecting Sporting Chance to probably need a race off the bench.

Trifecta Play – 8, 10 / 1, 4, 8, 10, 11 / 1, 4, 8, 10, 11 ($16 for 50-cents)

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