The potential for a clash between two Hall of Fame trainers looms large at Oaklawn Park today when trainer Bob Baffert sends the 5-2 morning line favorite Conveyance to the starting gate of the $250,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) where they will square off with his old rival D. Wayne Lukas and the 9-2 morning line third-choice Dublin.
Baffert has several potential Kentucky Derby candidates this year and if Conveyance, undefeated in thee starts, wins the the Southwest, he will join Baffert’s A-Team along with Eclipse Champion Two-Year-Old Male Lookin At Lucky.
Dublin showed real promise for Lukas early in his two-year-old season winning the the Grade-One Hopeful Stakes last September at Saratoga. But later in the year, Dublin finished off the board in the Champagne (G1) and Iroquois (G3) Stakes.
The potential cause for Dublin’s poor performance was an entrapped epiglottis which can adversely affect the horse during a race. The epiglottis was fixed and, since then, Dublin has been firing bullet work outs over the Oaklawn track. If Dublin has returned to his previous 2-year-old winning form, he should be tough in the Southwest.
After an eight-month layoff, Mission Impazible resumed racing January 9 in a 6-furlong sprint in the slop at Gulfstream Park, narrowly losing by a head to Three Day Rush who finished third in the Whirlway Stakes February 6 at Aqueduct. Mission Impazible earned a 102 Brisnet Speed Figure for that effort and he could improve in his second start since the layoff.
Mission Impazible has never run in a route race but his pedigree suggests that the distance should not be a problem and I look for him to be competitive.
With two wins and a second-place finish in three starts, Pleasant Storm has improved his performance with every race. In the Smarty Jones Stakes, Pleasant Storm finished a closing second to Dryfly (3-1), who is also entered in the Southwest, and his 92 speed figure for the effort is his best yet.
Prior to the Smarty Jones, Pleasant Storm fired a bullet work and his recent bullet work February 7 indicates that he could be ready for another good effort.
San Vicente Stakes
Sidney’s Candy heads a field of seven 3-year-olds entered in the $150,000 San Vicente Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita. Trained by John Sadler, Sidney’s Candy is the 2-1 morning line favorite but, in my opinion, the race appears to be wide open and there are others that I like better in this race.
Quiet Invader (3-1) drops back in distance from a route to a sprint for trainer Bob Baffert and I believe that should be more to his liking. In his last outing, an 8 ½ - furlong race at Santa Anita, Quiet Invader led the race until the stretch and faded to fourth at the finish.
Last September, Raging Wit (6-1) broke his maiden by 2 ¼ -lengths in a 6-furlong sprint at Turfway Park. Since then, Raging Wit finished off the board in his last three starts – all of them route races – and despite his seventh-place finish in the Dania Beach Stakes last month, Raging Wit lost by only 3 ½ -lengths and his 92 speed figure for that effort was his best yet. The drop back to a sprint today and the recent bullet work February 8 indicates that he could be competitive.
At 20-1 morning line odds, Gilligan looks like an interesting long shot. With 13 starts to his credit, Gilligan has the most experience of all the horses entered in the San Vicente and he drops back in distance today from a route to a 7-furlong sprint race for trainer Melvin Stute.
In his last four starts, all of them route races, Gilligan steadily improved his performance and speed figures and finished in the money in all of those races. I would not be surprised to see him repeat that performance in the San Vicente.