Hot Springs, Ark. (Saturday, Feb. 22, 2015) – Oaklawn’s second major two-turn prep for 3-year-olds, the $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3), will be run Sunday following a near-one-week delay because of winter weather. The 1 1/16-mile Southwest was originally scheduled for Monday, but it was postponed six days because of winter weather. Probable post time for the redrawn Southwest, which has a field of 11, is 4:42 p.m. (Central).
All but two of the original 12 entrants are scheduled to run Sunday, including 5-2 program favorite Far Right and Mr. Z, the early 3-1 second choice. The Southwest will mark the third meeting between Far Right and Mr. Z.
Far Right finished a troubled third in the $1 million Delta Jackpot Stakes (G3) Nov. 22 at Delta Downs. Mr. Z finished second, beaten a nose, in the 1 1/16-mile 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 a ground-saving ride from 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. Mr. Z, who is seeking his first career stakes victory after several near misses, is scheduled to be ridden for the first time Sunday by Corey Nakatani. He drew post 10 for Monday’s scheduled race, but didn’t fare any better on the redraw. The son of Malibu Moon is scheduled to break from the extreme outside (post 11), a spot that is 0 for 17 in distance races at the meet.
“The 10 was not good,” Mr. Z’s Hall of Fame trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, said Saturday morning. “The 11’s not good, either. So what are you going to do? It’s a random draw. We have to live with the cards that are dealt.”
Far Right was scheduled to break from post two Monday. The Notional colt got post six on the redraw and retains the services of Smith. Trained by Ron Moquett, Far Right will carry top weight of 122 pounds under allowance conditions for money earned.
“I’m confident,” Moquett said after Thursday’s post position draw. “I just want a good trip for everybody. It’s going to be a fun race for everybody that wants to bet. We like our chances with the proper trip.”
The weather delay allowed unbeaten Hillbilly Royalty to enter the Southwest, which will mark the stakes debut for the Langfuhr gelding. Trained by Donnie K. Von Hemel, Hillbilly Royalty won a Feb. 6 entry-level allowance race at 1 1/16 miles by 4 ½ lengths.
Von Hemel said the original date of the Southwest came up too quick for Hillbilly Royalty, but the delay made the timing of the race much more attractive. Anticipating that the Southwest might be rescheduled, Von Hemel worked Hillbilly Royalty a half-mile last Sunday, approximately 20 hours before Oaklawn announced the Presidents Day program, highlighted by the Southwest, was canceled because of icy conditions. Oaklawn didn’t reopen for training until Wednesday afternoon.
“Sunday was the last day we were going to be able to train,” Von Hemel said Saturday morning. “If they canceled, then it would set us up as good as we could considering the weather.”
Hillbilly Royalty, the 7-2 third choice in the program, is scheduled to break from post three under regular rider Luis Quinonez. Von Hemel said he believes the gelding will be a forward factor Sunday.
Also entered are Bayerd and Private Prospect, second and fourth, respectively, in the Smarty Jones, along with Bold Conquest. Bold Conquest finished second, beaten a neck, in the $100,000 Iroquois Stakes (G3) last fall at Churchill Downs. Bold Conquest, who will be making his 3-year-old debut in the Southwest, and Bayerd are both trained by Steve Asmussen. They are separate betting interests.
Two original Southwest entrants, War Story and J S Bach, passed the race and were entered in Saturday’s $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds.
“Everybody was in the same boat,” Lukas said. “The shippers actually left, so everybody else was subjected to the same conditions and everything else. It shouldn’t affect the race much. Nobody shipped in from Puerto Rico.”
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 field for the $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3), in post position order, with riders and morning line odds: Bayerd, Ramon Vazquez, 5-1; Majestico, Terry Thompson, 30-1; Hillbilly Royalty, Luis Quinonez, 7-2; Private Prospect, Alex Birzer, 12-1; Bold Conquest, Ricardo Santana Jr., 10-1; Far Right, Mike Smith, 5-2; Phenomenal Phoenix, Cliff Berry, 30-1; The Truth or Else, Calvin Borel, 20-1; Kantune, Shaun Bridgmohan, 12-1; Bold Animaux, Israel Ocampo, 30-1, and Mr. Z, Corey Nakatani, 3-1.