By Margaret Ransom
Saturday marks the 56th running of the Southwest Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park after a nearly two-week delay due to winter storm Uri, which blanketed the southeast From Texas to North Florida with frigid temperatures, ice, and snow for about 10 days.
The race had been postponed three times, but still drew a field of seven, including Godolphin’s 2-year-old male champion Essential Quality.
The Southwest the traditional prep for the Rebel Stakes (G2), which is in two weeks because of the delay, and the Arkansas Derby (G1), which is set for April 10. In 55 previous editions, only Smarty Jones in 2004 made it to the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle. However, quite a few good horses have won the Southwest, some making the gate in Louisville on the first Saturday in May and some going on to exceptional racing careers.
The well-traveled and speedy New Mexico-based Bold Ego won this race in 1981 and though well-beaten in the Derby, he managed to run second in the Preakness. Demons Begone won the Southwest, the Rebel, and the Arkansas Derby in 1987 and was the favorite on the first Saturday in May. However, he had severe breathing issues and had to pull him up for his and the horses’ safety.
Champion Smoke Glacken was a Southwest winner in 1997 before distance limitations kept him sprinting but earned an Eclipse Award as the best runner around one turn. Other notable Southwest winners include Lawyer Ron, Old Fashioned, Secret Circle, My Boy Jack, and Silver Prospector a year ago.
John Ed Anthony’s Loblolly Stable, which was shuttered in 1994, remains the leading owner with three wins and the late trainer Bob Holthus saddled five winners over his career. Two jockeys – the late Larry Snyder [in whose name the Oaklawn winner’s circle is dedicated] and Rafael Bejarano each won three, the latter winning twice in 2012 when the race was split due to overflow entries.
This year the 1 1/16-mile race carries a $750,000 pot and 10 points for the winner, and the race has been carded as the 11th with a post time of 5:58 p.m. CT.
The Southwest Stakes Field
From the rail out, with jockey, trainer, and morning line odds:
1. Essential Quality (Luis Saez, Brad Cox) 3-2
Tapit—Delightful Quality, by Elusive Quality
2. Saffa’s Day (Ricardo Santana, Jr., Steve Asmussen)
Carpe Diem—Shytoe Lafeet, by King of Kings
3. Last Samurai (Jon Court, Dallas Stewart) 12-1
Malibu Moon—Lady Samuri, by First Samurai
4. Jackie’s Warrior (Joel Rosario, Steve Asmussen) 8-5
Maclean’s Music—Unicorn Girl, by A. P. Five Hundred
5. Santa Cruiser (Richard Eramia, Keith Desormeaux) 12-1
Dialed In—Sweet Sermon, by Tapit
6. Woodhouse (David Cabrera, C. R. Trout) 8-1
Speightstown—Magical Dream, by Malibu Moon
7. Spielberg (Martin Garcia, Bob Baffert) 9-2
Union Rags—Miss Squeal, by Smart Strike