It was slow start for Silver Prospector and Ricardo Santana Jr., who found themselves just shy of the back of the field at the break. The pair rated just off the pace in sixth as the quarter-mile went in :22.89 and were in third behind Wells Bayou and Villainous after a half-mile in :46.60.
Silver Prospector edged Wells Bayou for the lead in deep stretch, kicking clear to win by a length for trainer Steve Asmussen. The final time for the 1 1/16-mile dirt test was 1:43.01. Wells Bayou held for second followed by Answer In 5 1/2 lengths back in third.
"The last two weeks the horse was training unbelievable! We didn't get any rain so the track was just how he liked it," Santana said. "He pulled me in a great spot the first (quarter-mile), and I just became his passenger."
A son of Declaration of War, Silver Prospector had banked 11 qualifying points coming into Monday's race with a victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs in November followed by a fourth-place finish in his 3-year-old debut in the Jan. 24 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn.
Silver Prospector and Santana after winning the Southwest (Eclipse Sportswire)
"His position was by design. I thought he got a little too far behind in the Smarty Jones," Asmussen said. "He was in good position all the way. We'll look at the Rebel Stakes (March 14) and Arkansas Derby (April 11). This series is quite lucrative and the points are very important."
The victory marked the third Southwest score for Asmussen. The Hall of Fame trainer took the 2014 renewal with Tapiture and the 2002 edition with Private Emblem.
"I think we were pretty reserved today," said owner Ed Orr, who echoed Asmussen's earlier sentiments regarding the Smarty Jones finish. "We had a lot of information that he was doing good. We were disappointed in the fourth-place finish in the Smarty Jones and thought that we could have done better there. We've learned a long time ago in this business to not get your hopes too high because they can be shot down pretty fast."
Silver Prospector improved his record to 3-0-2 from seven starts with $713,051 in earnings.