Of the eight horses that finished behind Will Take Charge in the Smarty Jones Stakes, third-place finisher Always in a Tiz may have had the toughest trip.
He encountered traffic problems around the second turn and was then forced to come wide into the stretch, narrowly missing in the three-horse photo finish with Will Take Charge and Texas Bling.
Always in a Tiz returned to his South Florida base, but he returned last week and had his final work Monday at Oaklawn. His regular rider, Paco Lopez, will also be making the return trip from Florida.
“We found out today Paco Lopez will be back,” said Carl Allsop, assistant to trainer Dominick Schettino. “People were saying the loss might have been his fault, but that’s not it at all. Right at the break, an assistant starter had left us to go help with another horse. He stood there fine. No problem. That’s his way. But then after they got the other horse loaded, the assistant started to climb back in and it distracted him. He turns his head to see what’s back there and boom they spring the gate.
"So, he didn’t get out of there the way we wanted. Paco was as mad as we were. That’s good. I like him to be in that frame of mind. He’s a real hot rider right now down in Florida. There should be plenty of speed in there this time, and hopefully we can be just outside them. That would be preferable. I’d love to get in that spot and show them what we really have this time.”
Entries for the Southwest will be taken Saturday. Also probable for the race are Will Take Charge and Texas Bling; Super Ninety Nine from Bob Baffert's barn; and Big Lute, Brown Almighty, Channel Isle, Fear the Kitten and Officer Alex.
Edited Oaklawn Park release with additional content by Dick Downey