Saturday’s Southwest at Oaklawn Park is a race many have circled on their horse racing calendars, as 2-year-old champ and the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Essential Quality will make his 3-year-old debut.
The Kentucky Derby prep race is the 10th on the card and is set for a 2:58 p.m. PDT post. The 1-1/16-mile test is worth 10-4-2-1 in Derby prep points.
The race has already been delayed two weeks because of weather but will finally take place with two of the top 3-year-old prospects making their season debuts.
Essential Quality (Brad Cox/Luis Saez/3-2) brought home the win in the BC Juvenile with a late surge just getting up for the win. He comes into here with three wins in three starts, two of them coming around two turns. Cox has been one of the hottest trainers and has enjoyed success bringing runners off breaks. He has shown he can run close to the pace or come from well back. Work tab has been consistent and strong. All that is left to see is if it translates to the race.
Jackie’s Warrior (Steve Asmussen/Joel Rosario/8-5) was the favorite in the Juvenile and did take the lead at the top of the stretch but got caught and ended up fourth. Still, the horse did come into the Juvenile off two straight wins in Grade I races. There has been some sharp works for the return and is coming off a decent maintenance drill for the spot.
Spielberg (Bob Baffert/Martin Garcia/9-2) is looking like one that Baffert has decided to give one final Derby chance. After winning the Los Alamitos Futurity with a gutsy stretch run, he came back and did nothing in the Lewis at Santa Anita. A bump at the start seemed to set the horse back and he meandered around the track to a fourth, 11-lengths back. It is Baffert running a horse at Oaklawn, but this horse has had seven starts already and for a $1 million purchase price he has not been consistently impressive. There has been some decent works for the race, but there is a lot of mind changing to be done here before we can throw our support behind him.
The field seems to drop off a substantial amount from there – at least on paper.
Woodhouse (C.R. Trout/David Cabrera/8-1) is your only other horse under 10-0 and is coming off a third in an allowance score on Feb. 11 in the slop at Oaklawn.
By Dennis Miller