Large field is preparing for Kentucky Derby

A dozen horses remained in treatment for grade 3, $750,000 early Sunday afternoon Southwest stake for 3-year-olds Saturday in Oaklawn, said race secretary Pat Pope.

Positions will be drawn for the Southwest on Monday, along with two other races on January 29. Southwest of 1 1/16 miles is Oaklawn’s second of four Kentucky Derby points races, with 17 in the top four finishers (10-4-2-1) toward starting Kentucky Derby eligibility.

Dash attack, Barber Road, Ignitis, Vivar and Barber Road, respectively the 1-2-3-5-7 finishers in the $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes January 1, are expected to return for the Southwest. The 1-mile Smarty Jones was Oaklawn’s first Kentucky Derby points race.

[Click here for a list of possible Kentucky Derby contenders.]

The Southwest is expected to attract two Southern California shippers — one for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert (Messier of Newgrange) and one for trainer Doug O’Neill (Slow Down Andy).

Other horses expected to be entered on Monday include December 18 Oaklawn maiden special weights graduate Call Me Jamal for trainer Mike Puhich and lightly raced Osbourne for Hot Springs trainer Ron Moquett. Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who has 21 of the 103 nominees, is expected to have at least one starter in the Southwest, Pope said.

“I can see at least ten, with the possibility of a dozen,” Pope said. “And we hope the plane will fly here.”

A flight of five Southern California-based horses for Saturday’s triple header, including two for Baffert and two for O’Neill, will arrive in Arkansas on Tuesday, Pope said.

Baffert has dominated Oaklawn’s Kentucky Derby preparatory series for the past decade, racking up 17 wins since 2010. He won the Southwest four times.

Messier won the $100,000 Bob Hope Stakes (G3) Nov. 14 at Del Mar before finishing second behind Slow Down Andy, beaten one piece, in the $300,000 Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) Dec. 11 at Los Alamitos to close out 2021 . Newgrange is undefeated in two career starts, including the $100,000 Sham Stakes (G3) January 1 in Santa Anita.

Because Baffert has been suspended by Churchill Downs, his horses are not eligible for Kentucky Derby qualifying points. The suspension stems from a possible medication violation involving his 2021 Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit.

Slow Down Andy has won 2 out of 3 starts overall, with the only loss being second in the $175,000 Golden State Juvenile Stakes on Nov. 5 in Del Mar. The 7-stage race was limited to California-bred. O’Neill and breeder/owner J. Paul Reddam campaigned against Slow Down Andy’s sire, 2016 Kentucky Derby winner, Nyquist.

Dash Attack amassed 10 points for his win in the Smarty Jones to go unbeaten in two career starts for trainer Kenny McPeek. Barber Road (John Ortiz), Ignitis (D. Wayne Lukas), Vivar (Brad Cox) and Ben Diesel (Dallas Stewart) are all aiming for their first win.

Osbourne will make his local debut after finishing second in the $400,000 Springboard Mile Stakes on December 17 at Remington Park in his final start. Osbourne, who has raced three times, is a neutered son of 2014 Southwest winner Tapiture.

Post positions will also be drawn Monday for the $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles and the $150,000 King Cotton Stakes for senior sprinters. The Martha Washington is Oaklawn’s first of three Kentucky Oaks points races. Like the Southwest, it offers 17 points (10-4-2-1) to the top four finishers to qualify for the Kentucky Oaks, the nation’s largest award for 3-year-old fillies.

Expected Martha Washington entrants include undefeated Como Square for Cox, Grade 1 winner Eda (Baffert), multiple stakes winner optionality (Asmussen), powerful December 31st surcharge winner Secret Oath (Lukas) and seeded Tonito’s (O’Neill ).

Eda and Tonito’s finished 1-3 respectively in the $300,000 Starlet Stakes (G1) on December 4 at Los Alamitos. Eda is also ineligible to collect Kentucky Oaks points due to Baffert’s suspension by Churchill Downs.

The 6-furlong King Cotton field is expected to be led by Grade I winner Collusion Illusion ahead of trainer Mark Glatt and track record holders Hollis (Ortiz) and Nashville (Asmussen).

Collusion Illusion won the $250,000 Bing Crosby Stakes (G1) in 2020 at Del Mar. Hollis set Oaklawn’s 5 furlong mark (1:02.17) in a Dec. 10 assist race. Runner-up Nashville set Keeneland’s 6-furlong track record (1:07.89) in the $125,000 Perryville Stakes for 3-year-olds in 2020 at Keeneland.

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