Making Sense of One Liner’s Eye-Catching Southwest Score

One Liner scored his third consecutive win without a career defeat in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on President’s Day. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Making the Grade, which will run through the 2017 Belmont Stakes, focuses on the winners or top performers of the big races, usually from the previous weekend, who could impact the Triple Crown. We’ll be taking a close look at impressive winners and evaluating their chances to win classic races based upon ability, running style, connections (owner, trainer, jockey) and pedigree.

This week we take a closer look at One Liner, winner of the $500,000 Southwest Stakes on Feb. 20 at Oaklawn Park.

The undefeated moniker is a flashy description of an athlete or team regardless of sport, and in horse racing unbeaten Kentucky Derby hopefuls almost always generate significant buzz. Because of that – and because he impressed speed figure makers in winning the Southwest Stakes – One Liner became a very interesting Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands hopeful overnight.

one liner

Bay Colt

Sire (Father): Into Mischief

Dam (Mother): Cayala, by Cherokee Run

Owner: WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and SF Racing

Breeder: Kingswood Farm (Ky.)

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Kentucky Derby Points: 10 (Ranked No. 9)

Ability: One Liner debuted in July 2016 at Saratoga Race Course and easily won a 5 ½-furlong sprint.

“We had to give him some time after that race because of some baby issues, but he came back very good and has been training good, so we were confident in him,” trainer Todd Pletcher said.

One Liner did not race again until Jan. 26, 2017, when he returned from the long layoff with a 2 ½-length victory at Gulfstream Park in a three-quarter-mile sprint that earned a 103 Equibase Speed Figure, a 15-point improvement from his debut.

The Southwest Stakes was a test on multiple fronts for One Liner. He stretched out to 1 1/16 miles, which required navigating two turns for the first time, and he faced stakes competition in the Grade 3 race. One Liner stalked the pace from fourth, launched his winning bid on the final turn, reeled in Petrov in the stretch and surged clear to win by 3 ½ lengths. Petrov was 8 ¼ lengths clear of third-place finisher Lookin At Lee.

One Liner was given a 117 Equibase Speed Figure, the highest earned this year by a 3-year-old in stakes competition, and a 102 Beyer Speed Figure, both of which indicate he is very fast and formidable on the Triple Crown trail. Also promising was that the bay colt came home fast with a final five-sixteenths of a mile in approximately 30.27 seconds, which is impressive especially for a 3-year-old’s two-turn debut and considering he was just three lengths behind a strong opening quarter-mile in :22.93.

Running style: One Liner has an ideal running style for the Triple Crown trail as he rates just behind the pace and makes his bid on the turn. That allows him to stay out of trouble and poised to strike when given his cue. He’s demonstrated the speed to stay close to a snappy opening quarter-mile at 1 1/16 miles and to press an even faster pace sprinting. He relaxed enough early in the Southwest to have sufficient gas in the tank to finish powerfully in the final furlong, where he put away Petrov despite drifting in and out while racing a bit greenly.

Connections: One Liner is owned by the partnership of WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and SF Racing.

WinStar Farm won the Eclipse Award as outstanding breeder for 2016 after breeding both Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Tourist and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner New Money Honey. WinStar is very familiar with racing’s center stage, specifically the Triple Crown. WinStar owned 2016 Belmont Stakes winner Creator in partnership with celebrity chef Bobby Flay. Homebred Super Saver prevailed in the 2010 Kentucky Derby and Drosselmeyer won the 2010 Belmont Stakes and 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic for WinStar, which also bred 2003 dual classic winner and champion Funny Cide. Homebred Well Armed won the 2009 Dubai World Cup.

Velazquez after the race. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Teo Ah Khing’s China Horse Club also owns 2016 Frizette Stakes winner Yellow Agate and races in partnership with WinStar the talented 3-year-old graded stakes winners Good Samaritan and Theory.

One Liner is the first graded stakes winner for SF Racing, according to Equibase statistics.

One Liner’s trainer, Todd Pletcher, and jockey, John Velazquez, are the all-time leaders in career Thoroughbred racing earnings in their respective fields with $331,996,077 and $359,735,999 through Feb. 20.

Pletcher has three wins in Triple Crown races on his résumé. He won the Kentucky Derby in 2010 with Super Saver and the Belmont Stakes with Rags to Riches in 2007 and Palace Malice in 2013. Pletcher, who served as an assistant to Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas before going out on his own in 1996, is a seven-time Eclipse Award winner as outstanding trainer.

Velazquez won the Kentucky Derby in 2011 with Animal Kingdom and owns a pair of Eclipse Awards. Velazquez guided Rags to Riches to victory in the Belmont Stakes in 2007 and also guided Union Rags to victory in the 2012 Belmont. He was a 2012 inductee into the Racing Hall of Fame.

Pedigree: One Liner gets his name from his sire, Into Mischief, who was a Grade 1 winner as a 2-year-old. Into Mischief ranked third on the first-crop sire list in 2012 and fourth on the second-crop sire list in 2013. His top runner to date is two-time Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents. Into Mischief also is the sire of 2016 Champagne Stakes winner Practical Joke, another Derby hopeful training toward his season debut. Into Mischief has sired 23 stakes winners, including 10 graded stakes winners, from five crops ages three and older.

One Liner is the first starter out of the winning Cherokee Run mare Cayala, whose lone win in 12 career starts came in a three-quarter-mile sprint. His grandam (maternal grandmother), Chasethegold, by Touch Gold, was Grade 3-placed sprinting and a winner at 1 1/16 miles. Chasethegold is a half-sister (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) to Grade 1 winners Albertus Maximus and Daredevil. Digging deeper into this pedigree, fourth dam (maternal great-great grandmother), Race the Wild Wind, was a Grade 1 winner.

From a pedigree standpoint, One Liner is a little bit light on stamina but has enough class to be exciting. Like many 3-year-olds on the Derby trail, his ability to effectively stretch out to 1 ¼ miles will be the key question to answer.

The good news for One Liner is that he appears to be exceptionally fast and he finished very well in the stretch of the Southwest Stakes. There have been plenty of 3-year-olds in recent memory who did not profile as classic Triple Crown contenders and overcame some stamina concerns with raw ability, and One Liner’s talent is very appealing.

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