Brian’s Derby Preps: The Southwest

Oaklawn Park: The Grade III, $250,000 Southwest at 1-mile

#1 Caleb’s Posse (9-2 ML): Looked good winning the Smarty Jones, the local prep over the course and distance, so you know right off he can handle both the trip and the strip. Drew well here, too (he also broke from the rail in the Smarty Jones), so he should be able to save ground and launch another move from midpack in an effort to win his first career graded stakes; not at the top of the list but won’t fault anyone that thinks he’s doubling up.

#2 Derivative (8-1): Not sure if it’s Oaklawn, the off tracks or some added maturity as a 3yo, but he’s a much-improved runner this year for D. Wayne. Wheels back on just nine days rest after running off with a maiden win over the course and distance, and there’s a chance he pulls the same kind of loose-on-the-lead trip today, so that’s a big positive. Not sure he’s of this quality yet, but D. Wayne has a way of spoiling the party in these big races, so it’s not out of the question that he runs big again; eligible to get brave on the lead if they leave him alone.

#3 Ghost Is Clear (8-1): Broke his maiden sprinting in a big way at FG in his last and now goes back to two turns with the hopes of improving on a disappointing route run to end his 2yo campaign. Much like his neighbor Derivative, he could simply be a new and improved 3yo who is blossoming at the right time, and if you believe that theory, you’ll get a nice price on a horse who is bred to be a runner; adds to the depth on this tough GIII.

#4 Grant Jack (15-1): Disappointed in a big way when tiring badly on the lead in the Smarty Jones after stalking the pace to win a pricey Remington stakes route two-back, so the tactics might change a bit today. Taking a closer look reveals he’s really never done much running outside of Remington, and even his best race over that strip isn’t making the main contenders blink in here; passing.

#5 J P’s Gusto (9-5): Talented 2yo makes his 3yo debut in a new barn after taking some big stakes over California’s synthetics for David Hofmans. His lone foray on real dirt was a disappointing sixth in the BC Juvenile, but he did work well over Santa Anita’s newly installed main track of late, so that does ease the concerns a bit. GI winner has plenty of graded earnings in the bank, so he doesn’t have to be cranked to win this, and at underlaid odds, it’s worth trying to beat him; respect his talent but willing to make him prove it on the real stuff before backing.

#6 Archarcharch (10-1): So was it the Oaklawn strip, the two turns, or the “good” track that led to his demise at even-money in the Smarty Jones? Tough to say, but he was clearly not the same runner who looked so good breaking his maiden in Fair Grounds’ Sugar Bowl at 6 furlongs two-back. Bred to handle this trip and has a stalk-and-pounce style that should play well here, so if it’s a fast track, he might be the right price play; expecting a much better effort.

#7 Bonaroo (30-1): D. Wayne’s other runner has yet to break his maiden and was beaten pretty handily in the Smarty Jones, so it’s pretty clear he needs softer to threaten; longshot.

#8 Yankee Passion (8-1): Son of the freaky-fast sprinter Yankee Gentleman will try to outrun his pedigree in here as he tackles two turns for the first time for the comebacking Larry Jones. With Pleasant Colony on the bottom, a mile probably isn’t too far to ask for a colt that clearly has talent and was very impressive winning his 3yo debut over the track; untested but improving runner has an air of excitement about him.

#9 Elite Alex (4-1): Highly touted colt has garnered a pretty big following for a runner with just one maiden win as a 2yo to his credit, but anyone who saw his 3yo debut over the course and distance had to be impressed. Closed from the clouds that day after breaking in a tangle and running wide, and though he’s hung out again today, he should get faster splits to track and will be that much tighter in his second start of the year. Not too sure you’re going to get the 4-1 ML, but the good news is that he won’t be favored with ‘Gusto in the lineup; expecting him to live up to the hype and get his picture taken.

#10 Brickyard Fast (30-1): Solid second behind Grant Jack at Remington in his first start with blinkers and now makes his 3yo debut in a tough spot from a tough post. He appears to have talent and has the speed to be involved early, but this is a tall order; know him early but not expecting him to be around at the finish.

#11 Picko’s Pride (30-1): Second behind Yankee Passion in his 3yo bow but took the worst of it at the draw and runs the risk of being hung extremely wide into the first turn. The local run was his first start since September and it’s always nice to see a young horse return at 3 and run faster than he ever did as a 2yo, but still, this is a major step up for a runner that has never run beyond 6 furlongs; outsider.

Selections:

#9 Elite Alex

#8 Yankee Passion

#5 J P’s Gusto

8 thoughts on “Brian’s Derby Preps: The Southwest

  1. Brian, Great insight on The Factor outing at SA. Small point. How is it the Southwest gets a horse by horse rundown but the St Vincente only gets a little one paragraph blurb. Allot of nice horses in the Cal race paticularly the runner-up. Also, Baffert might be able to get his horse to stretch out and that would liven up the parade. Send him down to Florida and let him shake up Uncle Mo.

  2. Bob, Brian may well answer this himself…but as he’s got several gigs, limited time prevents him from doing full previews when there are multiple preps in a weekend. That will be the case going forward, too.

  3. I love Elite Alex. His first race was incredible, don’t think you will get 4-1 either. Ritchey’s been very patient with him and given him the extra growth time that he needed. I believe he’ll live up to his billing.

  4. Thanks Teresa. August Song, I was mildly interested in the Southwest and I wanted to support Elite Alex but when I saw those leg wraps and Calvin Borel wrapped around him I lost my enthusiasm. CB should have stayed in Dubai. He didn’t help the horse much.

  5. Bob, thanks for the kind words. The main reason why I didn’t do a lot on the San Vicente was that it was just one-turn and I want to give the most coverage to the routes, especially on a weekend with three preps.

    It wouldn’t shock me if we see The Factor head to OP for the Rebel in March. Baffert took that route with Lookin At Lucky last year but don’t forget that his speedy Conveyance won the Southwest the month before. Oaklawn’s strip tends to be kind to speed and up to this point their 3yo’s have not proven to be world beaters, so it might be the right way to introduce The Factor to two turns.

  6. Bob, et all,

    I just read that Baffert will now target the Sunland Derby for The Factor, which kind of tells you to tread lightly when thinking of betting (Baffert himself is already saying he’s not really thinking Derby). It’s almost as if he knows he won’t go two turns or a distance of ground, but since he’s a really fast and talented 3yo they have to try…tough to blame them there.

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