Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will try to collect his record-tying fifth victory in the Southwest Stakes when he sends out lightly raced Collected in the $500,000 Grade 3 event Monday at Oaklawn. Probable post time for the Southwest, the ninth of 10 races, is 5:09 p.m. (Central).
Racing begins at 1:05 p.m. on the special Presidents' Day program, with the Southwest part of Oaklawn's annual $55,000 progressive cash giveaway promotion.
In addition to a record purse, the Southwest also offers 17 points to the top four finishers (10-4-2-1) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby, which is limited to 20 starters. If the 14-horse field remains intact, it will equal the largest in race history. The 1986 edition had 14 starters.
All four Southwest victories for the Southern California-based Baffert have come since 2010. Conveyance won the Southwest in 2010, Castaway and Secret Circle won divisions when the race was split in 2012 and Super Ninety Nine scored a record-breaking 11 ¼-length victory in 2013.
Collected, a chestnut son of City Zip, will be making his first start outside California. He exits a 1 ¼-length victory going a mile in the $100,000 Sham Stakes Jan. 9 at Santa Anita. He is the 5-2 program favorite against 13 rivals, all locally based.
Baffert said it was too quick to run Collected back in a race like the $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) Feb. 6 at Santa Anita, adding he also had the highly regarded Mor Spirit for the 1 1/16-mile. Mor Spirit was a 1 ½-length winner of the Lewis. Now, Collected is on deck for the Southwest.
“We're pretty excited about him because he's going to be stretching out farther,” Baffert said. “This is when they start separating themselves a little bit.”
Collected is scheduled to break from the rail under regular rider Martin Garcia and carry equal top weight of 122 pounds. The colt has been a forward factor in his first three races.
“I don't like post 1, but it's better than, I guess, 14 there, with that short run,” Baffert said. “I think the break is very important. I think he's going to have to use him early, now that he's on the inside. The last time he was on the outside and he sat off horses. He has a lot of natural speed. He's a pretty fast horse, so I'm sure there's going to be a pretty strong pace in the race.”
The most accomplished local runner, multiple stakes winner Discreetness, drew post 14 for trainer Jinks Fires of Hot Springs. He won the $250,000 Springboard Mile Stakes Dec. 13 at Remington Park, then began his 3-year-old campaign with a victory in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 18 at Oaklawn. Like Collected, the colt normally races close to the pace.
Fires said it's imperative Discreetness breaks sharply in the Southwest because of the short run to the first turn.
“I wasn't very happy with the 14, but sometimes that works out in your favor if there's a big scramble getting to the turn and then some horse happens to make a left or right-hand turn,” Fires said. “Then, that 14 can be in your favor.”
Fires said he would have preferred post 3, 4 or 5, but the extreme outside drawn won't change his strategy.
“We'll probably just try to be up there off the pace a little ways, but not too far, hopefully,” Fires said.
Discreetness (6-1 on the morning line) will be ridden by Fires' son-in-law, Jon Court.
Also entered in the Southwest are Gordy Florida (12-1), Synchrony (6-1) and Luna de Loco (12-1), the 2-3-4 finishers, respectively, in the Smarty Jones and Suddenbreakingnews (6-1), beaten a nose by Discreetness in the Springboard Mile.
Synchrony and Suddenbreakingnews, both trained by Donnie K. Von Hemel, will be coupled in the wagering. Synchrony is scheduled to break from post 6 under Shaun Bridgmohan. Suddenbreakingnews, who will be ridden by Luis Quinonez, drew post 13.
“One was good, one was a little too wide,” Von Hemel said of the draw. “Kind of the way it works.”
The 5-1 second choice in the program is Whitmore, who, after adding blinkers, was a sharp Jan. 16 entry-level allowance sprint winner at Oaklawn for co-owner/trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs. He will be ridden for the first time Monday by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, who won last year's Southwest aboard the Moquett-trained Far Right.
American Dubai (6-1), Torrontes (6-1), Bird of Trey (10-1), Z Royal (20-1), War Stroll (30-1), Cutacorner (12-1) and Siding Spring (15-1) complete the projected lineup. Siding Spring is adding blinkers for the Southwest. American Dubai and Torrontes, who also adds blinkers, will be coupled in the wagering.
The late Bob Holthus, Oaklawn's all-time leading trainer, won the Southwest a record five times between 1988-2006.
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