©2015 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
The “Road to the Kentucky Derby” takes us to Hot Springs, Arkansas, Monday, where Far Right, winner of the one-mile Smarty Jones Stakes last month, will go to the starting gate as the 3-1 morning-line favorite in what appears to be a wide-open 50th running of the $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park.
Far Right comes into this race with a 2-2-2 record in seven starts for trainer Ron Moquett. And, in stakes competition he’s compiled a 1-0-2 record in four starts.
In the Smarty Jones, it looked like Far Right would have to settle for runner up honors to Mr. Z, who is also entered in this race as the morning-line 7-2 second choice. However, for some reason Mr. Z, who was on the lead in the stretch, veered to the right and that loss of ground enabled Far Right to come up the inside along the rail and win by a 1¾-length margin.
Last November, those two faced off in the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes (G3) where Mr. Z finished second, losing by a narrow nose to the very nice colt, Ocho Ocho Ocho and Far Right finished another four lengths back in third.
The Delta Downs Jackpot is 8½ furlongs which is the same distance as the Southwest and that could be a key factor in this race. Mr. Z is a proven competitor at this distance with a second-place finish in the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes (G1) and he finished third by neck to the highly-regarded Dortmund in the Los Alamitos Futurity Stakes (G1).
I look for both horses to be competitive but Mr. Z could have an edge over Far Right going the further distance.
J S Bach, the 4-1 morning-line third choice, is a lightly-raced colt who comes into the Southwest Stakes (G3) with a 1-1-0 record in two starts for trainer trained by Todd Pletcher.
He’s stepping up in class and has yet to race in stakes competition. However, last month J S Bach looked good breaking his maiden by an impressive 8½ in his debut as a three year old at Gulfstream Park. That distance of that race is the same as the Southwest and the final time of 1:44.61 makes him competitive with this group.
This race will be J S Bach’s second start as a three year old and he has room to improve off of his last start. In addition, the pedigree of J S Bach indicates that if he lives up to his breeding he should be competitive.
A couple of long shots I like are Bold Conquest (12-1) and Phenomenal Phoenix (30-1). They both have yet to prove themselves on the Derby Trail but they have the breeding to be a factor.
The Southwest will be the first start for Bold Conquest as a three year old and he comes into this race for trainer Steve Asmussen with a 1-2-1 record in four starts, including a second-place finish in the Iroquois Stakes (G3) and a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes (G1).
Whether Bold Conquest can step up off of a four month layoff to win his first stakes race remains to be seen. However, he’s been training well at the Fair Grounds and two recent back-to-back bullet works could have him ready to run a good race.
Phenomenal Phoenix comes into this race with a 1-1-1 record in four starts for trainer Donnie Von Hemel. He’ll need to improve his game in order to secure the win, but his performance last out showed promise and the addition of blinkers could help Phenomenal Phoenix be a factor in the Southwest Stakes (G3).
The Southwest Stakes (G3) is the last race in Kentucky Derby Prep Season consisting of 20 races worth 10 points each to the winner. The second-place finisher received 4 points, the third-place finisher received 2 points and the fourth-place finisher received one point.
The Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and Risen Star Stakes (G2) on February 21 will start the Kentucky Derby Championship Series consisting of 16 races and the winner of those races will receive 50 points, the second-place finisher will receive 20 points, the third-place finisher will receive 10 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive 5 points.
Halfway through this series beginning with the UAE Derby (G2), Florida Derby (G1) and Louisiana Derby (G2) on March 28, the points will increase to 100 points for the winner, 40 points for second place, 20 points for third and 10 points for fourth place.
Calculator, ranked 5th in the January 24 Kentucky Derby point standings, is sidelined with an injury for six months and he’s off the Derby trail. Leave the Light On, ranked 13th, is also off the trail.
Texas Red is sidelined with a foot abscess but could, perhaps, return to racing in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) or Arkansas Derby (G1).
Here’s a look at the current top twenty Derby qualifiers:
2015 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Individual Leaders ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. El Kabeir, 25, John Terranova II, $380,792
2. International Star, 21, Mike Maker, $250,979
3. Dortmund, 20, Bob Baffert, $390,000
4. Upstart, 16, Rick Violette Jr., $538,080
5. Carpe Diem, 14, Todd Pletcher, $660,000
6. Texas Red, 12, Keith Desormeaux, $1,176,000
7. Mr. Z, 12, D. Wayne Lukas, $488,326
8. Far Right, 12, Ron Moquett, $205,906
9. Ocho Ocho Ocho, 10, Jim Cassidy, $660,000
10. American Pharoah, 10, Bob Baffert, $360,000
11. Daredevil, 10, Todd Pletcher, $300,000
12. Far From Over, 10, Todd Pletcher, $150,000
13. Metaboss, 10, Jeff Bonde, $126,000
14. Lucky Player, 10, Steve Asmussen, $97,231
15. Frosted, 8, Kiaran McLaughlin, $156,800
16. Firing Line, 8, Simon Callaghan, $130,000
17. Conquest Typhoon, 4, Mark Casse, $335,827
18. Bold Conquest, 6, Steve Asmussen, $72,176
19. Rock Shandy, 6, Peter Miller, $56,000
20. Bayerd, 4, Steve Asmussen, $245,000