The rail-skimming drive in the muddy, sealed Oaklawn stretch showed My Boy Jack’s versatility, as his only other victory was a closing effort in Oct. 9 Zuma Beach Stakes on the Santa Anita Park turf. Last time out in the Jan. 6 Sham Stakes on dirt at Santa Anita, he was rank for much of the race and just got up to finish third, 7 ¼ lengths behind McKinzie.
"It was a complete turnaround effort from his last start. Today he was quite calm and let me ride him, and that was the biggest difference," said winning rider Kent Desormeaux, brother of Keith, who was aboard the colt in the Sham. "He didn't waste any energy going around the racetrack, so he flew home. Great training job by Keith."
In the 1 1/16-mile President's Day test for 3-year-olds, My Boy Jack settled at the rear of the field while 6-5 favorite Mourinho took control early. Pressured by Road to Damascus, Mourinho galloped through modest fractions through the first six furlongs, as Ezmosh and Sporting Chance – the latter making his first start since winning the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes on Labor Day – stalked the top two.
Mourinho attempted to get away coming out of the final turn, but Kent Desormeaux shifted My Boy Jack to the rail and the colt took off. Leaving a closing Combatant and a yielding Mourinho in his wake, My Boy Jack drew away and hit the wire first in 1:46 flat as the 8.80-1 fourth betting choice.
Desormeaux and My Boy Jack. (Eclipse Sportswire)
Combatant finished second, 2 ½ lengths clear of Sporting Chance, who put his neck in front of Mourinho for third. The top four finishers earned qualifying points for the May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, distributed on a 10-4-2-1 scale.
"I was able to get him up the rail, but I have to say it was a great training job by Keith," Desormeaux said of his ride. "Last time (in the Sham), he was quiet as a church mouse in the gate, but got very aggressive early and I was just skiing around there. When I turned him loose, he just galloped home. He didn't power home like he did today.
"The best part about the race is he's going to a Derby. It may be the Arkansas Derby (at Oaklawn on April 14), but he's Derby bound."
"We didn't get the easy lead like we did last time," said jockey Drayden Van Dyke of his ride aboard the Bob Baffert-trained Mourinho, an easy winner of the Jan. 15 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn. "To be honest I think if the track would have been faster and not the condition it's in, I still don't think they would have caught him. I will blame it on the track. He was swimming through it."
My Boy Jack's previous seven starts all came on the West Coast. He came in sixth in his debut on dirt in June, but a switch to turf resulted in a trio of runner-up finishes, including a second in the Del Mar Juvenile Turf Stakes. The colt put it together to break his maiden in his next start, the Zuma Beach Stakes, before he finished seventh, three lengths behind Mendelssohn, in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.
My Boy Jack returned to the main track in the Sham, proving to his connections that he had versatility, and with his Southwest victory, the colt improved his record to two wins and four placings, and increased his earnings to $425,145. He has 12 total Kentucky Derby qualifying points, picking up two in the Sham.
"For him to run well on dirt – we were ecstatic. I told (Kent) the horse would run well on dirt," Keith Desormeaux said.