The next time you get caught in traffic, don’t fret. It could be worse. You could be on the Arkansas Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.
Better late than never is the theme for Saturday’s Southwest Stakes as Oaklawn Park’s second Kentucky Derby prep will take place 12 days late because of abysmal winter weather in Hot Springs, Ark. On a positive note, the postponements delayed but did not sidetrack the 3-year-old debut of 2-year-old champion Essential Quality, who tops this year’s field.
1. Essential Quality (3-2): Trainer Brad Cox only envisioned two starts for him before the Kentucky Derby so the two-week delay wasn’t a crusher. The Godolphin 3-year-old was able to train on a regular basis at Fair Grounds and drawing the rail only boosts his chances of laying off the early pace with a ground-saving trip in a relatively small field and turning in a strong and useful comeback effort.
JOCKEY: Luis Saez; TRAINER: Brad Cox
2. Saffa’s Day (10-1): Exits a narrow maiden win on this main track, but his chances of stepping up with a big effort are muted by a pair of starts in stakes when he was no factor.
JOCKEY: Ricardo Santana Jr.; TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
3. Last Samurai (12-1): Makes his 2021 debut after a three-start 2-year-old campaign with a maiden win and two dull tries – all of them in slow time. He seems overmatched in this field.
JOCKEY: Jon Court; TRAINER: Dallas Stewart
4. Jackie’s Warrior (8-5): Contesting a brutal pace in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance proved costly as he weakened and faded to fourth for his first loss in five career starts. There’s not much speed in this seven-horse field, giving him a great chance to control the pace and the race. If there’s a threat to the chalk players, it’s him.
JOCKEY: Joel Rosario; TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
5. Santa Cruiser (12-1): He flopped in two stakes appearances after a solid maiden win. Can’t envision a strong enough pace to set things up for him.
JOCKEY: Richard Eramia; TRAINER: Keith Desormeaux
6. Woodhouse (8-1): After a nice maiden win, he turned in a solid effort while finishing a troubled third in an allowance race on this track. If he takes another step forward, he could be a major player.
JOCKEY: David Cabrera; TRAINER: C. R. Trout
7. Spielberg (9-2): He certainly has the connections to be a major factor on the Triple Crown trail. He’s trained by two-time Triple Crown winner Bob Baffert and owned by some of the same people who originally bought 2020 Kentucky Derby winner Authentic. He won the Los Alamitos Futurity then failed to fire the Robert B. Lewis Stakes on a wet track. The son of Union Rags worked sharply for this and a dry track should only improve his chances of being far more competitive in this try.
JOCKEY: Martin Garcia; TRAINER: Bob Baffert
THE PICK: Jackie’s Warrior
LIVE LONGSHOT: Woodhouse