2021 Southwest Stakes Cheat Sheet

Jackie’s Warrior (left) and Essential Quality headline Saturday’s Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park, a qualifying points race for the 2021 Kentucky Derby. (Eclipse Sportswire)

After two postponements caused by a crippling winter storm, the $750,000, Grade 3 Southwest Stakes is set for Saturday at Oaklawn Park. The Southwest is the second of four prep races for the 2021 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve at the Hot Springs, Ark., track, offering qualifying points to the top four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 basis.

Held at 1 1/16 miles, the Southwest is expected to mark the return of last year’s champion 2-year-old male Essential Quality, who’ll be making his sophomore debut for Brad Cox, who was honored with an Eclipse Award as outstanding trainer for 2020.

The Southwest will be televised on the NYRA-produced “America’s Day at the Races” show, airing on FS2. Post time is scheduled for 5:58 p.m. ET.

Read on for information about the 2021 Southwest Stakes contenders.

Keeneland/Coady Photography

1. Essential Quality (3-2)

Jockey: Luis Saez

Trainer: Brad Cox

Owner: Godolphin

Career record: 3 starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $1,335,144

Earnings per start: $445,048

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 101

Kentucky Derby Points: 30

Pedigree: Tapit – Delightful Quality, by Elusive Quality

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This unbeaten colt has sat atop the Kentucky Derby future wager books for nearly four months following his Eclipse Award-clinching victory in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance on Nov. 6, and his return in the delayed Southwest Stakes is one of the most anticipated events in racing so far this year. He showed marked improvement through three starts last fall, winning a six-furlong maiden at Churchill Downs and then the 1 1/16-mile Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland, coming from off of the pace each time. Essential Quality has top-notch connections and a fine pedigree for route racing, and he’s been training very well at Fair Grounds in preparation for his sophomore debut. The main question about this probable odds-on post-time favorite is a universal one for maturing Thoroughbreds: can he continue his upward trajectory at age 3? One way or another, we’ll know a lot more about Essential Quality’s status as a leading Kentucky Derby winner after Oaklawn’s card wraps up Saturday. Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox finished second and third in last year’s Southwest Stakes with Wells Bayou and Answer In, respectively.

Keeneland/Coady Photography

2. Saffa’s Day (10-1)

Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owners: L and N Racing and Clark Brewster

Career record: 4 starts – 1 win – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $62,034

Earnings per start: $15,509

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 94

Kentucky Derby Points: 0

Pedigree: Carpe Diem – Shytoe Lafeet, by King of Kings

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Saffa’s Day enters the Southwest off of a game nose win over two opponents in a one-mile maiden special weight race at Oaklawn on Jan. 22. That was his first official victory, although he crossed the finish line first back in October at Keeneland in his career debut. He was disqualified from that 5 ¼-length win due to a medication violation and was unplaced in two stakes tries to close out his juvenile campaign. Saffa’s Day improved his form in his 3-year-old debut, but he only earned an 85 Equibase Speed Figure and will have to improve substantially to have any shot at winning the Southwest. At the very least, this Carpe Diem colt should give stablemate Jackie’s Warrior some company during the early stages of Saturday’s race. Steve Asmussen and Ricardo Santana Jr. teamed up to win last year’s Southwest with Silver Prospector and did the same in 2013 with Tapiture. Asmussen also won the 2002 Southwest with Private Emblem.

Coady Photography

3. Last Samurai (12-1)

Jockey: Jon Court

Trainer: Dallas Stewart

Owner: Willis Horton Racing

Career record: 3 starts – 1 win – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $45,144

Earnings per start: $15,048

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 77

Kentucky Derby Points: 0

Pedigree: Malibu Moon – Lady Samuri, by First Samurai

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Last Samurai returns to the track after a four-month layoff and could carry the longest odds in the field come post time Saturday. After racing greenly in his debut and finishing ninth, he won a seven-furlong race at Churchill Downs by three-quarters of a length in late September and showed some fight in the stretch. He then stretched out to two turns and finished a well-beaten sixth in a 1 1/16-mile allowance-optional claiming race at the same track in late October before resting for the winter. Last Samurai has been posting regular workouts at Fair Grounds over the past several weeks and trainer Dallas Stewart should have him fit, but in terms of past performance this colt by top sire Malibu Moon is outclassed against the likes of Essential Quality and Jackie’s Warrior. Grabbing third or fourth Saturday would be a solid accomplishment to build on in the coming months. Jockey Jon Court guided Archarcharch to victory in the 2011 Southwest.

Eclipse Sportswire

4. Jackie’s Warrior (8-5)

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owners: J. Kirk and Judy Robison

Career record: 5 starts – 4 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $502,564

Earnings per start: $100,513

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 105

Kentucky Derby Points: 12

Pedigree: Maclean’s Music – Unicorn Girl, by A. P. Five Hundred

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Essential Quality’s 3-year-old debut in Saturday’s Southwest may be getting most of the headlines, but this talented colt’s return is also a major draw. He comes back out of the same race as his main Southwest rival, having finished fourth behind Essential Quality in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as the 9-10 favorite. Jackie’s Warrior stalked a hot pace in the Juvenile at Keeneland and took a brief lead coming out of the turn, but he tired in the stretch and was defeated by 3 ¼ lengths. Prior to the Juvenile, Jackie’s Warrior had dominated in all four of his starts, including posting open-length wins in a Grade 2 stakes and two Grade 1s. All of those races came around one turn, topped by the one-mile Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park last October, and there were skeptics who questioned whether Jackie’s Warrior wanted to race at longer distances based primarily on his pedigree. It will be interesting to see how much this colt has matured when he returns Saturday; he certainly possesses enough ability and the bloodlines to extend out to 1 1/16 miles and maybe even farther, but as with any horse coming back off a layoff the evidence will come on the track. Look for jockey Joel Rosario, who’s been aboard Jackie’s Warrior for every start after his debut, to be aggressive with him early in an attempt to secure the early lead, and then let his high cruising speed take over. Asmussen has won the Southwest three times: 2002, 2013, and last year.

5. Santa Cruiser (12-1)

Jockey: Richard Eramia

Trainer: Keith Desormeaux

Owner: Calumet Farm

Career record: 5 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $85,792

Earnings per start: $17,158

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 95

Kentucky Derby Points: 1

Pedigree: Dialed In – Sweet Sermon, by Tapit

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Santa Cruiser wheels back in the Southwest after only two weeks’ rest, joining Woodhouse as the entrants with recent racing experience. His connections are looking for major improvement off of his last two starts in Kentucky Derby preps, as he finished fourth after a troubled start in the Jan. 16 Lecomte Stakes and then a well-beaten seventh in the Feb. 13 Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford, both at Fair Grounds. In his final start at age 2, he set a contested pace and won a one-turn mile maiden race at Churchill Downs by 1 ½ lengths, good for a 95 Equibase Speed Figure. If he can summon a similar effort to his maiden win, Santa Cruiser could hit the board in the Southwest, but his two efforts so far as a 3-year-old aren’t inspiring. It will be interesting to see where jockey Richard Eramia places this colt during the Southwest’s early stages. Trainer Keith Desormeaux won the 2018 Southwest with My Boy Jack.

6. Woodhouse (8-1)

Jockey: David Cabrera

Trainer: C. R. Trout

Owner: Samuel Henderson

Career record: 2 starts – 1 win – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $25,698

Earnings per start: $12,849

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 99

Kentucky Derby Points: 0

Pedigree: Speightstown – Magical Dream, by Malibu Moon

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Longshot Woodhouse enters the Southwest after finishing a solid third in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Oaklawn on Feb. 11 at 16.90-1 odds. He settled in midpack in that race and made up some ground in the stretch to lose by a length on a muddy track. Prior to that, this Speightstown colt won his career debut at Remington Park by 3 ½ lengths going a two-turn mile in December. He’s jumping into deep water Saturday, but the 99 Equibase Speed Figure he earned in his recent race is a positive and so is the fact that he’s competed well twice in route races. He’s also got some class in his pedigree, as he’s closely related to graded stakes winners Dream Rush, Dreaming of Julia, and Dream Pauline on his dam’s (mother’s) side. Woodhouse is worth considering as a trifecta filler in the Southwest even if his win chances are slim, and an “off” track could help him (there are rain chances in Hot Springs for every day Thursday through Saturday this week).

Eclipse Sportswire

7. Spielberg (9-2)

Jockey: Martin Garcia

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owners: SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Golconda Stables, Siena Farm and Robert Masterson

Career record: 7 starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $263,200

Earnings per start: $37,600

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 103

Kentucky Derby Points: 13

Pedigree: Union Rags – Miss Squeal, by Smart Strike

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: California-based trainer Bob Baffert makes his first of what will probably be several Derby Trail forays to Oaklawn in Saturday’s Southwest with this graded stakes winner who took a significant step back in his only 3-year-old start to date. After gamely winning the Los Alamitos Futurity by a nose over pacesetting The Great One back in December, Spielberg was bumped early and never mustered a threat in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park on Jan. 30, finishing 11 ¼ lengths behind stablemate Medina Spirit while running fourth. A son of Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags, Spielberg was purchased by three members of his ownership group for $1 million as a yearling but remains an enigma on the Kentucky Derby trail. A bounce-back performance in the Southwest, however, could bring him right back into the upper echelon of contenders. If he breaks clean, look for Spielberg to hang close to probable pacesetter Jackie’s Warrior through the Oaklawn backstretch before engaging that foe on the far turn. His pedigree is oriented for distance racing, and Hall of Famer Baffert has won this race four times, with Conveyance (2010), Secret Circle and Castaway (both in 2012, when the race was run in two divisions), and Super Ninety Nine (2013). Martin Garcia rode Conveyance to victory for Baffert 11 years ago.

2021 Southwest S.
February 27th, 2021

5:58 PM EST
  • Purse: $750,000
  • Distance: One And One Sixteenth Miles
  • Age: 3 yo
  • Surface: Dirt
3/2 1 Essential Quality
10/1 2 Saffa's Day
12/1 3 Last Samurai
8/5 4 Jackie's Warrior
12/1 5 Santa Cruiser
8/1 6 Woodhouse

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