Hillbilly Royalty might be in the right place at the right time in this Southwest Stakes.
“The extra week was the difference on whether to run in that race or not,” trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel said Saturday. “It works out better for him, because it figures to be a tough race, but probably not as tough as the Rebel.”
After Hillbilly Royalty scored a front-running 4 1/2-length entry-level allowance victory at 1 1/16 mile on Feb. 6, Von Hemel mentioned the Rebel Stakes as a possibility. Now, with only two career starts under his belt, Hillbilly Royalty is the 7-2 third choice in the program for the Southwest.
Von Hemel said oddsmakers might be giving the gelding too much respect. Hillbilly Royalty broke his maiden against competition at Remington Park.
“It’s just a different group of horses,” Von Hemel said. “That’s a big jump from two races, which have been very good, into a graded stakes. That’s a big jump for a horse. I’m not saying he can’t do it, but I’ve been disappointed a lot of times in spots like this.”
Hillbilly Royalty is scheduled to break from post three Sunday under regular rider Luis Quinonez. He isn't nominated to the Triple Crown but could be a late nominee, depending on how things go. Country music star Toby Keith owns Hillbilly Royalty.
Edited Oaklawn release