The Morning Line(s): Southwest Stakes

2 Divisions Highlight the 2012 Southwest Stakes 

2nd Division Favorite: Secret Circle

Things are getting crowded down in Hot Springs, Arkansas but Oaklawn Park was ready and the adjustments have been made. For the third time ever the Southwest Stakes will be split into two separate races in order to accommodate the 21 entrants they received for the tracks first Graded Stakes race on the 2012 Kentucky Derby prep schedule.

This marks the first time since 2002 that the Southwest Stakes was faced with this same predicament. However, since the Southwest was not upgraded to a graded stakes until 2008 this year will be the first time that graded stakes earnings will be awarded twice. Therefore, with the purse set at $250,000 for each there is plenty of horses that will come away with a better position on the graded stakes earnings list and a better chance of qualifying for the 138th Kentucky Derby.

This factor makes things much more interesting because in essence what we have is an additional derby prep that could play a huge role in the Kentucky Derby qualification process. Also it is plays to the advantage of handicappers that love playing the big races the most. Even better, if you lose the first you can break even or jump ahead with the second. Very fun.

Monday’s racing card has been updated and the two Southwest Stakes divisions will be run back to back as races 8 and 9 on the 10 race card. Let’s begin the first of the two divisions 

G3 Southwest Stakes | Purse $250,000 | 1 Mile | Dirt

First Division | Race 8 | Post Time 4:41 pm

PP HORSE JOCKEY TRAINER ML ODDS
1 Red Jack  J. Court  D. Lukas 30-1 
2 Unbridled’s Note  J. Leparoux  S. Asmussen 10-1
3 Jake Mo  M. Berry  A. Milligan 15-1
4 Majestic Stride  C. Marquez, Jr.  J. Bonde 8-1
5 Longview Drive  M. Garcia  J. Hollendorfer 5-2
6 Junebugred  J. Bravo  S. Hobby 7-2
7 No Spin  J. Graham  T. Ice 20-1
8 Reckless Jerry  S. Laviolette  K. Smith 9-2
9 Ring It Up  L. Wade  C. Richard 20-1
10 Laurie’s Rocket  C. Borel  D. Stewart 15-1
11 Castaway  R. Bejarano  B. Baffert 5-1

The pair of horses that are returning to Oaklawn after finishing very well in the Smarty Jones stakes in January is the winner Junebugred and runner-up Reckless Jerry. Both horses have been training at Oaklawn and put in a pair of pretty solid works in the last week.  The better of the two was Junebugred when he clipped through with a final of time of 48.20 over 4 Furlongs, the fastest of 8 works at the distance on the day. Reckless Jerry came in at 49.80 at the same distance 2 days later – 2/16.

The two horses that round out the top four choices on the morning line are both shipping into Arkansas after racing out west at Santa Anita their last time out. Longview Drive enters after finishing 3rd in the Sham Stakes on January 7. Since arriving at Oaklawn he was able to get out on the track and also put in a 4 Furlong work. Similar to Junebugred he also finished in 48.20. His time was the second fastest out of 59 different works at the same distance on the day. Castaway enters after scoring his first ever win – a MSW at Santa Anita on January 21. Bob Baffert elected not to send him straight to Oaklawn so unlike these other three he did not get out on the track for a final work before tomorrow’s race.

Here are the other horses that return after finishing outside of the money in the Smarty Jones stakes and their finish: Jake Mo (4th) Laurie’s Rocket (5th) and No Spin (10th)

Now for a look at the second division.

Second Division | Race 9 | Post Time 5:15 pm

PP HORSE JOCKEY TRAINER ML ODDS
1 Z Rockstar  M. Berry  D. Von Hemel 20-1
2 Adirondack King  S. Elliott  J. Servis 6-1
3 Scatman  L. Quinonez  M. Lauer 6-1
4 Apprehender  I. Diego  I. Mason 10-1
5 Chalybeate Springs  C. Marquez, Jr.  D. Lukas 30-1
6 Pee H Dee  L. Wade  C. Richard 15-1
7 Cyber Secret  C. Hill  L. Whiting 4-1
8 King Coral  M. Escobar  A. Milligan 30-1
9 Secret Circle  R. Bejarano  B. Baffert 1-1
10 Big Wednesday  R. Vazquez  J. Martin 15-1

The overwhelming favorite in this division is the leading derby contender in Bob Baffert’s barn Secret Circle, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint. Last time in the Sham Stakes, his 3-yr-old debut, Secret Circle looked comfortable leading the 5 horse field into the stretch before he was worn down late and passed by Out of Bounds. The 2nd place finish was still a good start to his 3-yr-old campaign but against a field of 10 tomorrow I expect Secret Circle to sit just off the pace setters before making a move at the top of the lane.

Since the 2nd choice in this division is a horse that is entering after only an Allowance win, I expect Secret Circle to win this division. He is by far the horse that has raced against the toughest competition and the 1 mile distance isn’t stretching him too far. Bob Baffert really comes away with a great entry / division as I was looking forward to seeing him race against Junebugred for the first time and against Longview Drive for the second time.

As far as the first division goes this race has a lot of potential outcomes. Looking at a couple of veteran riders in Calvin Borel and Julien Leparoux their two horses should definitely be worth a look and are considered my live long shots. Since I don’t think there will be a west coast sweep I give Junebugred the nod over Longview Drive and will keep an eye out for potential exotic wagers that will be too hard to resist.

Since its inception in 1968 only one winner of the Southwest Stakes has gone to win the Kentucky Derby and that of course was Smarty Jones in 2004. Now that the race has officially been upgraded to a Grade 3 Stakes race the chances of their being another in the coming years are improving. This year is a perfect example of how much interest there is in this race. So with a total of 21 entries and 2 winners makes 2012 an even more likely year that we will see a horse repeat Smarty Jones’ trail to Kentucky Derby glory.

Lots of credit and our applause goes to Oaklawn Park for getting both of these divisions approved. Tomorrow’s card is now set up to be one of the most exciting Monday’s I can think of. Good luck to all the horses in both divisions, we look forward to rewarding 2 Southwest Stakes winners in 2012 and hopefully we will see them again on the trail to the Arkansas Derby and of course the Kentucky Derby as well. Cheers.

Written by: Little Brink

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