By Dick Downey
The Southwest states will be run at 1 1/16 mile for the first time in its 33 year history, so we're not looking for a horse that can take advantage of the "short stretch mile" at Oaklawn Park.
Bob Baffert's Super Ninety Nine he is a deserving 7-5 favorite. Not only does he owns the highest last-race speed figure, but Baffert has become dominant when shipping into Oaklawn. But maybe Super Ninety Nine can be beat, especially if he bounces off his big last-race effort.
Always in a Tiz, the 9-5 post-time favorite in the Smarty Jones Stakes, had tough luck that doesn't really show up on the running line -- and he still managed to finish a close third. His head was turned when the starting gate opened, and he immediately lost ground. He was running very well at the end of that race, and he will get an extra 110 yards in the Southwest. Paco Lopez reunites with Always in a Tiz. If you're a trip handicapper, this is a horse you want to examine carefully. He will break from the center of the field for Dominick Schettino.
While the win of the Smarty Jones by Will Take Charge has been overshadowed by that of stable mate Oxbow in the Lecomte Stakes, I thought Will Take Charge, a half-brother to Take Charge Indy, was very handy. He had a wide trip at the outset of that race and was stubborn in victory, outfinishing Texas Bling after a stretch duel. Add a trio of sharp workouts since then, maybe we have a horse on the forward march for Wayne Lukas.
Officer Alex is listed at 20-1 on the morning line, and all I can theorize is that the oddsmaker believes the general public will not know he lost a shoe in the Smarty Jones. A strong winner of the Penn Nursery last December, Officer Alex really did not have much of a chance in the Smarty Jones. I would be surprised if you can get 20-1 come Presidents Day. If he can replicate his Penn Nursery effort going two turns for the second time, and get a better trip, he is dangerous for trainer Lynn Whiting.
Brown Almighty exited a fifth-place finish in the Smarty Jones with a severe lung infection. This always makes me wonder why no one noticed before the race. Anyway, he is said to have recovered. His form has looks better on turf. The Smarty Jones was his first effort on dirt. Given the excuse from that race, trainer Tim Ice gives him another try on Monday.
Texas Bling, a Texas-bred son of Too Much Bling, is a road warrior, with 11 starts under his bridle already. He barely lost to Will Take Charge in the Smarty Jones, and he won the Springboard Mile on synthetic before that. Before that, he had been switched to turf in an effort to break his maiden that was successful. I will be as happy as anyone if Texas Bling continues his good string of races for Danele Durham, but I cannot ignore the thought that at some point he gets outclassed.
Fear the Kitten, an Illinois-bred not owned by the Ramsey's -- but bred by them -- is in the hands of Mike Maker for the second time out. He debuted with Maker when third in the Lecomte, beaten 13 lengths by Oxbow. A board hit by Fear the Kitten would not be surprising, given that Maker agreed to take him on after he finished fifth in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club. At this point, he looks the part of a late-running type that could pick up pieces. He's a son of Kitten's Joy out of a Dynaformer mare, so a turf career would be in the cards if he doesn't progress on dirt.
Heaven's Runway is owned by the same folks who brought you Summer Bird, minus the trainer. This one has Jareth Loveberry in charge of the stable. So far, Heaven's Runway hasn't been nearly as precocious as Summer Bird. He should help provide some pace in the Southwest, along with Super Ninety Nine and perhaps Texas Bling, Will Take Charge and/or Officer Alex.
Wayne Lukas also sends in Channel Isle, who broke his maiden on turf, then won an allowance race at Oaklawn on dirt. He went a mile in a flat 1:40. While Will Take Charge will provide his best efforts near or on the pace, Channel Isle will try to come late. It's great to see Brad Kelley enter him in the name of Calumet Farm, even if he can't use those famous silks.
Stuck out in post 10 for his second career start is Big Lute, trained by Steve Hobby. Big Lute made a big number in his debut at Oaklawn, winning at six furlongs by 4 3/4 lengths while timed in 1:10.43. It was an excellent effort. Now he has to overcome a disadvantageous post position while going two turns for the first time. If he wins, he goes on our Looking Good list.
1. ALWAYS IN A TIZ
2. WILL TAKE CHARGE
3. SUPER NINETY NINE
4. OFFICER ALEX
Grade III Southwest Stakes
1 1/16 Mile
Post Time: 6:09 ET
|1||Officer Alex (PA)||20-1||L. Quinonez||117||L. Whiting|
|2||Brown Almighty (KY)||10-1||T. Thompson||117||T. Ice|
|3||Will Take Charge (KY)||5-1||J. Court||122||D. W. Lukas|
|4||Texas Bling (TX)||12-1||M. C. Berry||119||D. Durham|
|5||Always in a Tiz (KY)||4-1||P. Lopez||115||D. Schettino|
|6||Super Ninety Nine (KY)||7-5||R. Bejarano||117||B. Baffert|
|7||Fear the Kitten (IL)||15-1||R. Napravnik||117||M. Maker|
|8||Heaven's Runway (KY)||30-1||J. Loveberry||117||J. R. Martin|
|9||Channel Isle (KY)||15-1||I. Ocampo||117||D. W. Lukas|
|10||Big Lute (MD)||6-1||R. Albarado||115||S. Hobby|
Equipment Changes: 8 - Heaven's Runway - Blinkers off. All will run with Lasix.
Owners: 1 - Winning Horses Stable and Choctaw Racing Stable ; 2 - Tri-Star Racing, LLC, Denson, Joe B. and Gasaway, Brent ; 3 - Willis D. Horton ; 4 - Hall's Family Trust (Lewis A. Hall) ; 5 - MeB Stables LLC & Brooklyn Boyz Stables (Anthony & Mary Bonomo) (Anthony Bonomo) ; 6 - Tanma Corporation ; 7 - Frank D. Irvin ; 8 - K.K. Jayaraman & V. Devi Jayaraman ; 9 - Calumet Farm (Brad Kelley) ; 10 - Alex & Joann Lieblong
Breeders: 1 - The Elkstone Group LLC; 2 - MAP Mare Partnership #3; 3 - Eaton; 4 - Hall's Family Trust; 5 - Cobra Farm; 6 - Northwest Farms LLC; 7 - Kenneth L. Ramsey & Sarah K. Ramsey; 8 - Dr. K. K. Jayaraman & Dr. V. DeviJayaraman; 9 - Bluegrass Hall, LLC; 10 - Green Willow Farms