Monday’s card at Oaklawn Park features the second stepping stone on their path towards the Kentucky Derby, the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes going 1 1/16 miles. The race drew an interesting cast, including three Steve Asmussen trainees who filled out three of the first four finishing positions in last month’s Smarty Jones. However, there are also a host of new challengers that combine to make this a tougher assignment than that aforementioned local prep.
The Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace, which is not what we saw in the Smarty Jones when Gold Street (#4) was allowed to set his own pace alone out front. This time the Pace Projector depicts Gold Street getting challenged for the lead by Wells Bayou (#1) though quick early splits, with the stretching-out American Butterfly (#5) in close pursuit. While I do believe that the pace will be honest this time, I don’t anticipate that this is a situation in which any particular running styles will be at a significant disadvantage.
Gold Street was a visually impressive winner of the Smarty Jones, but everything went his way that day. He took advantage of a lack of aggression shown by others heading into the clubhouse turn as he set a measured pace and was able to spurt away late in the short stretch. Not only are all of his pace figures color-coded blue in TimeformUS PPs, but he also found himself racing over a somewhat speed-favoring trip. It was just a perfect storm for him and now he’s going to face more adversity. I prefer another out of that race.
The only runner that I want to take out of the Smarty Jones is Steve Asmussen’s highly regarded Silver Prospector (#2), who was vying for favoritism that day. He finished a dull fourth, but he never really was given a chance to be successful after getting bumped leaving the gate and getting shuffled out of position heading into the first turn. I’m willing to look past that performance, and his prior two-year-old form gives him a big chance here. He still needs to improve on his top dirt route TimeformUS Speed Figure of 105, but at least he’s going to be a more enticing price this time.
There are a few intriguing challengers invading from other circuits. One of those is Chase Tracker (#6), who finished an even third in the Grade 2 Remsen last time. He was never really a threat to the top two finishers that day, but he stayed on decently in deep stretch after idling on the far turn, suggesting that two-turn distances won’t be an issue for him. Any pace that gets ahead of him should help, but I’m looking at him as more of an exotics player than a win candidate.
My top pick is ANSWER IN (#9), who is also the morning line favorite in this race. I’ll admit that I expected to get a slightly better price on him than that 3-1 line, but there are obviously many reasons to gravitate towards this colt. He showed real promise winning his second career start at Churchill Downs, drawing off with authority through the lane after tracking a moderate pace. He stretched out to two turns for the first time in the Springboard Mile last time and just missed when second to today’s rival Shoplifted (#3). However, I believe Answer In ran the best race that day, as Javier Castellano had trouble finding a clear path for him approaching the top of the stretch and ultimately had to angle down to the rail path, which wasn’t the place to be on that Remington card. He doesn’t figure to have any issues with a little added distance given his pedigree and he possesses a versatile running style that should allow him to adapt to any kind of pace scenario.
The other horse that I want to use prominently at a better price is the California-based Taishan (#8). This guy wanted no part of sprinting in his debut, but took a nice step forward when breaking his maiden second time over the hard-knocking Tizamagician. Taishan earned a strong 106 TimeformUS Speed Figure for that performance, and the number was validated when Tizamagician returned to break his maiden two starts later before finishing a close fourth in the Robert B. Lewis. Taishan obviously disappointed in his stakes debut last time behind the highly promising Baffert trainee Authentic. However, he was compromised by a moderate pace in a race dominated up front and I don’t think he ever really got a chance to use the sort of grinding style that worked so well for him two back. He seems like a candidate to rebound at a square price.
Exacta Box: 2,8,9
Exacta: 9 with 3,4,6
Trifecta: 9 with 2,8 with 1,2,3,4,6,8
Trifecta: 9 with 3,4,6 with 2,8