Brad Cox had a plan and the high-percentage trainer will find out Monday afternoon at Oaklawn if that plan is successful when he sends out lightly raced Answer In in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.
The Southwest goes as the ninth of 10 races on the special Presidents' Day card, with probable post time 4:43 p.m. (Central). Racing begins Monday at 12:35 p.m.
The Southwest will offer 17 points to the top four finishers (10-4-2-1, respectively) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. The race brings back Gold Street, Shoplifted and Silver Prospector, the 1-3-4 finishers, respectively, from the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 24, Oaklawn's first of four Kentucky Derby points races.
But the 3-1 program favorite for the Southwest is Answer In, a Dialed In gelding who hasn't started since finishing second in the $400,000 Springboard Mile Dec. 15 at Remington Park.
“He's not a big, strong, strapping horse,” Cox said. “But I think he's very, very honest. I thought he got a lot of his first two-turn race at Remington. I'm hoping he moves forward. It's obviously going to be a very deep and talented group of horses. He's going to need to move forward and I think he has since his last race.”
Answer In has a string of works at Oaklawn, dating to early Jan, in advance of his 2020 debut.
The 7-2 second choice on the morning line is Chase Tracker for trainer Todd Pletcher. The recent arrival from south Florida will also be making his 3-year-old debut after concluding his 2019 campaign with a third-place finish in the $250,000 Remsen Stakes (G2) at 1 1/8 miles Dec. 7 at Aqueduct.
“He's got good tactical speed,” Pletcher said. “I think he's the type of horse that can put himself in a prominent position when needed to. He's made a nice transition from 2 to 3. He's filled out. He's starting to physically mature. It seems like he finished the Remsen with his legs underneath him. That's generally a good sign when a horse can go a mile and an eighth and finish with interest.”
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen has a strong hand with Gold Street, Shoplifted and Silver Prospector. Gold Street was a front-running winner of the Smarty Jones in his two-turn debut and has captured his last three starts – all on off tracks. Gold Street earned 10 Kentucky Derby-qualifying points for his Smarty Jones victory. Shoplifted beat Answer In a head in the Springboard Mile, while Silver Prospector won the $300,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) Nov. 30 at Churchill Downs in his final start last year.
Taishan, a recent arrival for Southern California-based trainer Richard Baltas, exits a fourth-place finish in the $100,000 Sham Stakes (G3) Jan. 4 at Santa Anita.
Cox will also be represented by Wells Bayou, who will be making his stakes debut after a front-running four-length entry-level allowance victory Jan. 26. Stablemate Something Natural, runner-up in that 1-mile race, returned to clear his first allowance condition in Saturday's sixth race. Workout partners for the lightly raced Wells Bayou have included Answer In, unbeaten Taraz and Bonny South.
Taraz won the $150,000 Martha Washington Stakes Feb. 1 in her 3-year-old and two-turn debut. Bonny South, in her 3-year-old debut, was a first-level allowance winner in Saturday's 10th race.
“We've always liked him,” Cox said of Wells Bayou.
The Southwest field from the rail out: Wells Bayou, Florent Geroux to ride, 122 pounds, 8-1 on the morning line; Silver Prospector, Ricardo Santana Jr., 119, 9-2; Shoplifted, Brian Hernandez Jr., 119, 8-1; Gold Street, Martin Garcia, 122, 6-1; American Butterfly, Declan Cannon, 117, 15-1; Chase Tracker, John Velazquez, 117, 7-2; Villainous, David Cohen, 117, 15-1; Taishan, Mario Gutierrez, 117, 5-1; and Answer In, Javier Castellano, 117, 3-1.
Oaklawn's Kentucky Derby points series continues with the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14 and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 11.
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2020 Paulick Report.