Hot Springs, Ark. (Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015) – Far Right and Mr. Z are scheduled to meet again in the $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles Monday at Oaklawn.
A winter storm was bearing down on Hot Springs Sunday, but trainers said they were still hopeful the Southwest – the second major local prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 11 – will be run as scheduled.
“I just want to run,” said D. Wayne Lukas, who trains Mr. Z. “It really throws a wrench in your plans if we don’t. You have to readjust all that stuff.”
Mr. Z is among 12 horses entered in the Southwest, which has a probable post time of 5:09 p.m. (Central). Oaklawn’s annual $55,000 progressive cash giveaway promotion is also scheduled Monday.
The Southwest will mark the third meeting between Far Right, the 3-1 program favorite, and Mr. Z, the early 7-2 second choice. Far Right finished a troubled third in the $1 million Delta Jackpot Stakes (G3) Nov. 22 at Delta Downs and Mr. Z finished second, beaten a nose, in the race.
Far Right turned the tables on Mr. Z in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 19, winning the mile race by 1 ¾ lengths under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith. Mr. Z turned for home with a clear lead before veering out suddenly after being struck left-handed by Jon Court.
“It’s horse racing,” Lukas said. “I just think the horse caught Jon by surprise.”
Mr. Z recovered to finish third, 2 ¼ lengths behind Far Right. For the Southwest, Corey Nakatani has been named to ride Mr. Z, who is scheduled to break from post 10 in the projected 11-horse field.
“All of that’s fine,” Lukas said.
Far Right received a ground-saving trip in the Smarty Jones and is coming up to the race well, trainer Ron Moquett said. He is scheduled to break from post 2.
“Perfect,” Moquett said. “It’s almost like I drew it.”
Moquett said Smith was traveling from his Southern California base Sunday, adding he’s hopeful the race will be run Monday. If the Southwest has to be postponed, Moquett and co-owner Harry Rosenblum said they were unsure if they could retain Smith because of possible prior commitments.
“We are ready for whatever they let us do,” Moquett said. “If they say that we’re not running, we’ll go from there. But, we’re planning on running.”
Citing possible winter weather, and an outside post (11), trainer Tom Amoss elected not to run War Story in the Southwest and said the gelding would await the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) Feb. 21 at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Amoss is based at Fair Grounds. War Story is the 4-1 co-third choice in the program, along with the lightly raced J S Bach.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, J S Bach ran second in his career debut before breaking his maiden by 8 ½ lengths Jan. 17 at Gulfstream Park. The Tale of the Cat colt is scheduled to break from the rail and retain the services of Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez for the Southwest.
Also entered are Bayerd and Private Prospect, second and fourth, respectively, in the Smarty Jones, along with Bold Conquest. Bold Conquest, who finished second, beaten a neck, in the $100,000 Iroquois Stakes (G3) last fall at Churchill Downs, will be making his 3-year-old debut in the Southwest, and Bayerd are both trained by Steve Asmussen.
The Southwest will offer 17 points, including 10 to the winner, as part of the “Road to the Kentucky” series of races. If more than 20 horses enter the Kentucky Derby, starting preference is given to horses who accumulate the highest point totals in the designated races.
The complete Southwest Stakes (G3) field, in post position order, with riders and morning line odds: JS Bach, John Velazquez, 4-1; Far Right, Mike Smith, 3-1; Private Prospect, Alex Birzer, 15-1; Bayerd, Ramon Vazquez, 8-1; The Truth or Else, Calvin Borel, 20-1; Kantune, Shaun Bridgmohan, 15-1; Phenomenal Phoenix, Cliff Berry, 30-1; Majestico, Terry Thompson, 30-1; Bold Conquest, Ricardo Santana Jr., 12-1; Mr. Z, Corey Nakatani, 7-2; War Story, Joe Talamo, 4-1, and Bold Animaux, Israel Ocampo, 30-1.