KYD148 Trail: Race Review of the G3 Southwest Stakes

Trainer Bob Baffert sent his talented colt, Newgrange to Oaklawn Park last Saturday, and he did not disappoint. Here is a race review, plus expert analysis of how the contest unfolded. Kentucky Derby Points were on the line ... for Baffert? Not so much ...
Trainer Bob Baffert sent his talented colt, Newgrange to Oaklawn Park last Saturday, and he did not disappoint. Here is a race review, plus expert analysis of how the contest unfolded. Kentucky Derby Points were on the line ... for Baffert? Not so much ...

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On Saturday, the ensuing leg of Oaklawn’s Arkansas Series broke from the gate in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes, going 1 1/16th … it was a full field of 12, with no scratches present on what was a pristine day for weather in Hot Springs. On the table were Kentucky Derby Points to the tune of 10-4-2-1, for those placing 1st through 4th. As the 3-yr-olds went through the loading process after the post parade, it was apparent that a good portion of the betting public was confident that HOF trainer Bob Baffert’s Newgrange #10 was a “deserving favorite.” The son of Violence (who himself was once in the SoCal-based horseman’s care) had another “HOF-er” connection … his pilot, John Velazquez. That expert rider was in-town for the mount, specifically sent by the conditioner to seek out and bring home this victory. And did they … for the connections of SF, Starlight, Madaket, Stonestreet, and the rest …

Most ‘cappers were swallowing the pill that Kenny McPeek’s Dash Attack #2 and Dallas Stewart’s Ben Diesel #1 would end up having the chance to “catch” Baffert’s entry, either just after the start of the race, or late in the game. After all, this pair were alums of the 1st Leg of the AR Series, the $250k Smarty Jones, which was run just a few weeks ago. In that route, it was McPeek’s son of Munnings that prevailed nicely from the back of the pack over a sloppy track, garnering 10 Derby Points. Going off at odds of 3/1 this time, the colt was a clear 2nd choice this time around, looking to repeat the feat. As for Stewart’s well-backed runner in the “Smarty,” this son of Will Take Charge had a tough go, breaking from the extreme outside ... ending up a distant 7th. In the Southwest, he and rider Jon Court were given a much better post on the rail—prognosticators responded, with odds of precisely 5/1.

As for the rest of the field, “everyone else” was thought to be on the receiving end of double-digits on the tote … in other words, befitting their station. Popular picks among the “contrarians,” horseplayers who like to seek “value plays,” included Ron Moquett’s Osbourne #6 (13/1), Chris Hartman’s Kavod #4 (14/1), and last, but certainly not least, John Ortiz’s Barber Road #8 (12/1). Each of these, possessed some strong class connections, an experienced jockey aboard, a trip handicapping angle, or “all-of-the-above.” In particular, Ortiz’s entry looked to be a first-rate choice. This was especially true, considering this 3-yr-old by Race Day had elevated his game for WSS Racing. Running in a Starter Allowance at Churchill Downs in November, he then graduated into “BT” competition by the end of the month under the Twin Spires. With loads of late speed, Ricardo Santana was guiding this major overlay, as he was 5/1 on the M/L. We could surmise that drifting above 11/1 was nothing short of a gift.

At the break in the Southwest, it was clear that Hartman’s Kavod #4 attempted to take this field by storm. Going coast-to-coast, wire-to-wire, all on the engine … etc., you get the point. Fractions as they unfolded were: 23.07, 47.32, 1:12.42, and 1:39.28 … Those “stealing” tactics are not an easy task at Oaklawn since the Meet opened in December. Francisco Arrieta was trying to pull-off something that does not always bode well when it comes to routing on this dirt course. In the end, he ran out of steam, finishing 4th, with 1 lone Derby Point to show for his frontend efforts. As the backstretch unfurled, it was clear that most had settled into their pace, and were saving ground for an end run. John Velazquez aboard the Baffert entry bided his time, and positioned himself well just to the outside of the 2nd flight. Once the colt got his cue to move around the final turn, he did not respond like the HOF jockey probably wanted … he looked to be in a bit of trouble, as the wire appeared in the distance.

Great horses, even young and inexperienced ones, directly respond to adversity. That is precisely what Newgrange #10 did down the lane at Oaklawn. Others like Osbourne #6 and Dash Attack #2, spun their wheels, and looked as though they were running on a treadmill. Court’s mount, the highly-touted Stewart entry, did not do much better, even though the rail opened up for him. Drifting unprofessionally, Ben Diesel #1 settled for 3rd in the end (2 Derby Pts.). As for Ortiz’s nicely-priced colt, Santana swung him out wide into the 4-5 path, and he gamely ran on, finishing a solid 2nd in the end (4 Derby Pts.). Looking for his “next out,” is probably in order … rising star.

As for Velazquez and his ride, the Baffert runner unleashed a fury of gears when it counted most, and with less than a furlong to go, found his feet, ran on … winning by more than a length (Final time: 1:45.83). It was an impressive display of power in the end, and the connections proved that their investment ($125k at the 2020 Keeneland September Sale) had paid off. With a purse of $450k, even though Baffert could not collect the 10 Derby Points, he still proved his relevancy, and ability to train in the face of difficult circumstances. Johnny V was clearly the right jockey for this race, and his mount rewarded bettors with $5.00 for a $2.00 wager, with over $1 million in the Grade 3 Southwest S. WPS Pool.

How will decisions move forward … for Newgrange #10 … for the ownership group … how about for Bob Baffert? Here, we clearly have a budding Kentucky Derby contender … if the HOF conditioner cannot compete on the 1st Saturday in May, where will this one end up? Stay tuned, because even though the colt has returned to SoCal, the Rebel Stakes is just around the corner on February 26, 2022 … and with that, 50-20-10-5 KYD148 Points will be ready for distribution. It is sure to be another great contest.

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