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HOT SPRINGS, AR (Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017) – Uncontested can become the second horse to sweep Oaklawn’s first two major Kentucky Derby preps in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Monday.
Probable post time for the 1 1/16-mile Southwest, the ninth of 10 races, is 5:09 p.m. (Central). Racing begins at 1:05 p.m.
Uncontested, who races for Harry Rosenblum and Robert LaPenta, exits a front-running 5 ¼-length victory in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 16, Oaklawn’s first of four Kentucky Derby preps. The son of Tiz Wonderful ran the mile over a sloppy, sealed surface in 1:36.32 – fastest time since the Smarty Jones was inaugurated in 2008 – and set a record for margin of victory.
“It’s always tougher,” trainer Wayne Catalano said. “You always like to make the next step – a forward step – get a little better. They’re only going to get tougher each race. The horse is going in great. That’s all we can ask for.”
Catalano’s son-in-law, Channing Hill, is named on Uncontested, who is scheduled to break from post 3 under top weight of 122 pounds. Catalano called the post, “perfect.”
“Got to be happy with that, right?” Catalano said.
Also entered in the Southwest from the rail out: Cool Arrow, Brian Hernandez Jr. to ride, 119 pounds, 12-1 in the program; Silver Dust, Corey Lanerie, 115, 10-1; Lookin At Lee, Ricardo Santana Jr., 117, 8-1; Rowdy the Warrior, Luis Quinonez, 115, 20-1; Cu Rahy, Glenn Corbett, 115, 50-1; Warrior’s Club, Chris Landeros, 117, 12-1; Petrov, Jose Ortiz, 5-1, 115; Dilettante, Florent Geroux, 115, 15-1; Hence, Ramon Vazquez, 115, 20-1; One Liner, John Velazquez, 115, 7-2; P C Cowboy, Carlos Marquez Jr., 115, 30-1; and Chief Know It All, Joe Rocco Jr., 117, 12-1.
Cool Arrow will be scratched to remain at Fair Grounds to run in the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) Feb. 25, according to the Oaklawn racing department.
Also returning from the Smarty Jones are Petrov, Rowdy the Warrior, Warrior’s Club and Cu Rahy, the 2-3-4-5 finishers, respectively.
Ron Moquett of Hot Springs, Petrov’s trainer/co-owner, saddled Far Right to win the Smarty Jones and Southwest in 2015.
Moquett said he believes Monday’s race could unfold differently than the Smarty Jones, when Petrov was in chase mode because Uncontested was on an uncontested lead.
“The only reason the pace had anything to do with it the last time was because we were going the short stretch of a mile and it was a sloppy track,” said Moquett, who originally trained Uncontested. “I knew there was going to a superior, classy horse out there without anybody doing anything. So we had to be in the unsavory position of chasing, which is the worst thing that you can do. This time, there should be a pace to where everybody gets a shot. If somebody wants to commit themselves to go the lead, they can do that.”
One Liner, unbeaten in two career starts, will be making his two-turn debut in the Southwest for trainer Todd Pletcher. He is coming off a 2 ½-length first-level allowance/optional claiming victory Jan. 26 at Gulfstream Park. The Into Mischief colt has raced just off the pace in both career starts under Velazquez, a member of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
“I don’t mind it,” Velazquez said of his outside draw Monday. “He’s quick enough that he’s going to be in the first three or four going into the first turn. I don’t think it’s going to hurt him.”
Stretch-running Lookin At Lee hasn’t started since finishing fourth in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Nov. 5 at Santa Anita for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. He had been based this winter at Fair Grounds, but Asmussen, Oaklawn’s seven-time training champion, has another promising 3-year-old, Untrapped, ticketed for $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) there Feb. 25.
Lookin At Lee worked a half-mile in :50.20 Monday after arriving earlier this month at Oaklawn.
The Southwest offers 17 points (10-4-2-1) to the top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the $2 million Kentucky Derby (G1) May 6 at Churchill Downs.
Oaklawn’s series of Kentucky Derby preps continues with the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 18 and $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 15.
#3 Uncontested – Even though many are critical of his win in the Smarty Jones because he got an easy lead I’m quick to point out that he got an easy lead because he was just flat faster than the other horses that were entered. Once again today it looks like he should be out on a fairly easily lead in this one. Plus a big positive for him is the forecast which is calling for heavy rain most of the day. If he can get a sloppy track once again while getting to the front he should be very hard to run down. He’s the best horse on the backside at Oaklawn right now, and I think the real challenge will come in March when the shippers really invade for the Rebel Stakes.
#11 One Liner – Trainer Todd Pletcher sends a late and exciting entry to the race adding intrigue to an already exciting event. One Liner was a Saratoga maiden special weight debut winner like many Todd Pletcher horses, and in that maiden race he beat Royal Copy who came back to finish second by a neck in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes. He went on the shelf right after that race and returned at Gulfstream Park in late January to dominate an allowance field. This is the logical next step, and he should be in with a big chance. With this outside draw he’ll stalk Uncontested and will look to get the first jump over the others in trying to catch him.
#8 Petrov – Didn’t get much of a chance to run his race last time out as he was put into the position of chasing Uncontested around the track for the whole race. That’s not ideally his style, and I think today’s race with 13 horses really will suit him better as he’ll look to sit off the pace a bit further and finish fast down he lane. I’m strictly on the fence when trying to determine his talent level, but I feel like he’ll tell us a lot in this race.
#4 Lookin At Lee – He’s the classiest horse in the race by far, but as I’ve said a hundred times about him I am very skeptical as to just how much talent this horse possesses. It’s great to be running within a few lengths of horse like Classic Empire and Not This Time, but lets be clear that he’s never actually threatened to beat any of them. In my estimation he’ll need to show some improvement to win this race, however you have to use him because this will be the easiest race he’s been entered into in awhile. We’ll see what he can bring to the table for his 2017 debut.
#1 Cool Arrow – Unsure how to analyze this one who is also entered in the Risen Star next Saturday. After drawing the rail he could scratch, but with the weather forecast looking like heavy rain it could actually mean he’ll stick around as he is one for one on an off track. This horse really ran a nice race last time out at Remington Park to win the Springboard Mile, however he got everything his own way in that one. I think hitting the board is probably the best he can do if he runs here as there will be no easy leads for him in this one. UPDATE: WILL SCRATCH
#5 Rowdy the Warrior – Looks like a classic hit the board type of horse to me as he takes back and makes one big run at the end. He’s kind of a poor man’s Suddenbreakingnews at this point as both the stablemates have the same style. Suddenbreakingnews won this race a year ago, but I don’t think Rowdy the Warrior can win this one today. Nice horse to use underneath though.
#7 Warrior’s Club – This horse is very honest I believe, but I’m just not quite sure he can beat the top horses in this race. He’s ran competitively though with several of the top horses in the crop so far, and we know Lukas will give him plenty of chances to earn his way to the Kentucky Derby. A main concern is the track condition on Monday with this horse. He ran a pretty flat fourth in the Smarty Jones over an off track. The ownership side of this horse is awesome as the Churchill Downs Racing Club campaigns the horse so hopefully he can make his way into the big one.
#10 Hence – I love this horse and NEARLY picked him to win the race!! Last time out if you saw his maiden win you were certainly entertained. Hence was getting ready to crush the competition before being spooked and trying to JUMP the rail! Jockey Ramon Vazquez kept him from doing so, corrected him, got him running straight, and the horse was still good enough to come back and with the race. Obviously he can’t do that today…if so it will be a disaster. However, if he can put it all together I think he’s getting better and better with each race. Dangerous horse who could be progressing like some Asmussen 3 YO’s tend to do this time of year.
#9 Dilettante – The Coach with a sneaky entry here that has me mildly intrigued. It took him several times to break his maiden, but he did run an impressive race last time out while beating a couple of local horses with some talent. The big surprise has to be the fact that jockey Florent Geroux comes in to ride this horse…that was the determining factor for me to list him as a “party crasher.” Hopefully his odds hold at 15-1…might be worth a couple bucks if so.
#13 Chief Know It All – Impressive allowance winner last time out earned him a shot in this race today. Felt like he could be a sleeper in this race before he drew all the way to the outside. Tough post for a horse that needs some breaks to go his way. Not today for me.
#2 Silver Dust – Starts in this one off of a three month layoff after breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs in November. He defeated Dilettante is that race so that does indicate that he can run a little bit, but the jury is certainly still out on Dilettante at the same time. This could be a nice horse, but awfully tough race for him to come back in today. Taking a wait and see approach.
#6 Cu Rahy – Continues to be entered in races over his head. Will be the longest shot on the board with very little chance of making an impact.
#12 P C Cowboy – Impressive maiden winner on opening day, and then came back to run third in an allowance after that effort. Recently was privately sold so he’ll have new connections today, and while I do like him in general I do not think he’s this type of horse.
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