If I have my info right, there hasn’t been a division of a stakes race since 1993. That said, the 21 entries being split up into two separate $250,000 stakes races for the Southwest Stakes (III) is kind of a big deal. At the same time, I wish they had used their heads in how they decided to separate entries.
One race features nearly all past stakes competitors, including top finishers from the recent Smarty Jones Stakes. The other features only one big name: Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Secret Circle, while the rest are mainly just recent maiden winners with no concrete credentials just yet.
While random draws are usually the best thing in terms of fairness for all, was there no other way to split up this race? Oaklawn Park is almost giving away free graded earnings to Secret Circle while making the others in the alternate race work for it. As much as I personally doubt Secret Circle’s chances in the Kentucky Derby (I) and its preceding prep the $1 million Arkansas Derby (I), there’s a chance he could be taking away money from a deserving improver going this route.
Anyway, I was asked by a commenter to analyze the fields for the Southwest Stakes. While I won’t break each and every one down to the bare bones (hey, it’s 21 ENTRIES!), I’ll give them both a quick comb-over so you’ll know who to watch.
Division 1 (Race 8) $250,000 Southwest Stakes (II) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/16 miles on dirt at Oaklawn Park. Post Time: Monday, February 20 at 4:41pm CST.
Believe it or not, I think Laurie’s Rocket might have a good chance here. While he set the pace in the Smarty Jones, he was on the rail in that race that forced him into early speed. He looks to change tactics here a bit. The Smarty Jones was such a close race, I think it can be largely thrown out among the top finishers, who all seem to be here in this race: winner Junebugred, Reckless Jerry, Jake Mo, Laurie’s Rocket, and No Spin who spun out to finish well behind the rest. Like I said, the Smarty Jones was a hot mess, so I really don’t know what to make of Junebugred’s ability.
However, with that said, I’m going with Castaway— who broke his maiden on his second try at this distance— and will probably nudge Longview Drive to finish on the board. The latter is too good and experienced a horse for me to leave out.
Division 2 (Race 9) $250,000 Southwest Stakes (II) - 3-Year-Olds. 1/16 miles on dirt at Oaklawn Park. Post Time: Monday, February 20 at 5:15pm CST.
A lot of speed in this race. Secret Circle will probably be a lukewarm favorite, seeing as he just missed the 1-mile Sham Stakes (III) last out and is a newbie at the rating game. Anyone who chooses to push him will probably have a better chance at winning here.
So who will push Secret Circle’s buttons? Looks like Cyber Secret has plenty of speed, but unlike Circle he can hold himself back until the end, where last out he really took off to win by 6 lengths in an Oaklawn op-claimer. Also flying under the radar is Big Wednesday, winner of a stakes over at Presque Isle Downs besting the very talented Mr. Prankster easily.