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Kentucky Derby

Southwest Stakes Preview: Gray Attempt Ready for Next Test

Gray Attempt Working at Oaklawn Park (Coady Photography)

The second of four Oaklawn Park-based Kentucky Derby prep races is set to go this Monday with the running of the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes. A field of 11 3-year-olds will take aim at the $500,000 purse, and several runners from the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes are making return appearances. The Southwest is part of a special 10-race President’s Day Card that also features the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap and the Grade 3 Bayakoa Stakes. Local post time for the Southwest is 5:09 PM CT.

The Smarty Jones winner Gray Attempt will lead the field for local trainer Jinks Fires. The son of Graydar made every pole the winning one here for his second straight stakes victory. However, the big gray horse has drawn the rail in a field full of speed, which could make life difficult on him. Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan will have the mount once again.

Two Gulfstream Park shippers will try their hand in the Southwest, led by the Todd Pletcher-trained Cutting Humor. He was second last time out in a tough allowance race at Gulfstream. Top jockey John Velazquez will have the mount. Also shipping in from Gulfstream Park is Olympic Runner, who broke his maiden last time out in South Florida. David Cohen will ride the Mark Casse-trained gelding.

You can’t talk Oaklawn Park without mentioning trainer Steve Asmussen, who has owned this place for several years. He has entered an eye-catching five horses in this year’s running of the race. The headliner is Long Range Toddy, the runner-up last time out in the Smarty Jones. He also sends out recent allowance winner Jersey Agenda, as well as the Smarty Jones third-place finisher Boldor and off-the-board runner Bankit. Rounding out his field of five is Ninth Street, who was second last time out in the Big Drama Sakes at Delta Downs.

The field for the Southwest Stakes from the rail out includes: Gray Attempt, Ninth Street, Cutting Humor, Boldor, Jersey Agenda, Super Steed, Sueno, Six Shooter, Bankit, Long Range Toddy, and Olympic Runner.

Kentucky Derby Contenders

Top Choice

#3 Cutting Humor – Pletcher has had major success at Oaklawn Park in recent years, including triumphs in last year’s Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby with Magnum Moon. He’ll kick off his 2019 Oaklawn attack with Cutting Humor, who is coming off of a nice second in a tough allowance race at Gulfstream Park. This horse has lost to some strong competitors throughout his short career, including the highly-touted Bourbon War, the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes winner Harvey Wallbanger, and recent Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes competitor Plus Que Parfait. That is a lot of solid back class, plus the pace should set up perfectly for him. Finally, it’s a great sign that Velazquez is coming in to ride.

Horses to Use in Multi-Race Wagers

#9 Bankit – This horse was a complete no-show in the Smarty Jones; however, neither the track nor the pace setup was in his favor. Both of those things could flip in his favor here, which makes him a logical option at a decent price. It’s also important to note that Jose Ortiz will come in to ride, which certainly gives you confidence. This small stretch out in distance is yet another positive for a horse that should come with a better run this time around.

#1 Gray Attempt – The Smarty Jones champion should have a good chance to repeat in this spot as he faces many of the same horses that he has already defeated. However, the rail isn’t a great draw for him in this contest, especially with a lot of other speed signed on in the race. He will face pace pressure while having a solid chance to be pinned on the inside. There is no doubt that this will be a new challenge for him, which makes him vulnerable enough to play against as the likely favorite.

#10 Long Range Toddy – He just keeps running better and better with each start. After winning three in a row at Remington Park, it was questionable how his form would translate to Oaklawn Park, but he was a very close second in the Smarty Jones. There is really no reason at all to think that he can’t compete with this group; however, it is possible that he will get a wide trip in this spot, compared to his ground-saving journey last time out. That is what made me not pick him on top in this very competitive race.

Exotic Plays

#5 Jersey Agenda – This is the Asmussen entry with the most intrigue as he steps up to stakes company for the first time. After breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs, he then came to Oaklawn Park and picked up a sharp allowance win on opening weekend. That victory earned him this shot, where he definitely can make some noise. The major worry with him is the pace, which looks hot on paper. He has never been in a race with this kind of pressure up front. It will be interesting to see how he responds.

#4 Boldor – His third-place Smarty Jones effort was a surprise as he was a 12-1 shot for Asmussen. That race showed us enough to think that he can hit the board again here; however, that is probably his ceiling. It is hard to expect enough improvement from him in this spot to turn the tables on them, with this race looking to be a tougher all-round event.

#11 Olympic Runner –  We’ll see if this Casse-trained gelding can jump onto the Kentucky Derby Trail after breaking his maiden last time out. His early speed will make him dangerous; however, there is a lot of other speed signed on to run in this race. The Smarty Jones pace was uncontested, which should not be the case here, especially with this horse drawn to the outside. His only option might be to go hard from that outside post so that he can save ground on the turn.

Check out our premium picks to see how we are betting this race!

Party Crashers

#7 Sueno – Trainer Keith Desormeaux shipped in for this race last year and stole it with My Boy Jack, who made a furious rally up the rail in the slop for the victory. This horse has some class on his resume, including a runner-up effort in in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes. However, Keith’s brother Kent did not come with him to ride the horse, which might be a bad sign. Still, if his price is big enough, he becomes an interesting play.

Throw Outs

#8 Six Shooter – He was close in the Smarty Jones when finishing fourth, but that track favored speed horses all day long, which hurt his chances. A different type of track and setup will be beneficial to him in this spot, but in the end, we prefer a few other closers more.

#2 Ninth Street – This definitely looks to be the weakest of the five Asumussen runners. He ran okay in the Big Drama Stakes at Delta Downs to finish second; however, this is a big step up in class for him. He has a lot to prove coming into this race.

#6 Super Steed –  They’ve tried this horse a couple of times against stakes company without any success. It’s three strikes and you’re out here, as the odds are that it will be more of the same for him in this spot.

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