Who's fit for the Southwest Stakes

In discussing the Southwest Stakes (click for free Brisnet.com Ultimate PPs w/ comments) with Steve Byk on his At The Races radio program Friday morning, I wondered whether fitness would be a factor for some entrants because of the lost training time this month at Oaklawn Park.

Eleven of the dozen entrants are based at Oaklawn with the most recent works ranging from four days ago to three weeks ago and everywhere in between. The only shipper, #5 Kendall’s Boy, has worked steadily since winning an entry-level allowance race on January 11 at Fair Grounds in his three-year-old debut.

Speaking of three-year-old debuts, the top two betting choices--#2 Tapiture and #7 Strong Mandat--are both making theirs with the former sporting eight works since winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on November 30 at Churchill Downs and the latter showing seven published works since his third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on November 2 at Santa Anita Park. The discrepancy could be that Tapiture worked February 13 while Strong Mandate has not worked February 2.

Racing Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas conditions Strong Mandate, and while the “coach” is certainly known for putting bottom into his steeds, I still prefer Tapiture in this spot because of the layoff.

Like Kendall’s Boy, Ride On Curlin made his three-year-old debut in a six-furlong entry-level allowance. The Curlin colt won his on January 12 at Oaklawn, and while he’s in a similar position as Strong Mandate with no works in more than a week, he’s at least raced in the past six weeks.

The same could be said for Coastline, who has burned some money in his last two starts, losing as the 8-to-5 favorite in the Delta Jackpot and as the 6-to-5 favorite in the Smarty Jones, but he’ll be 8-to-1 and gets major post relief.

The Southwest plays a key roll in a pair of TwinSpires.com contests: It’s the last race in the Presidents’ Day Weekend Show-Place-Win 1-million points promo and the third of 20 races in the Road to the Kentucky Derby SHOWdown with 1,627 alive for the $1-million for sweeping the series that concludes with the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands.

There are 306 players remaining in the Show-Place-Win contest, which means a successful $20 win bet will be worth at least 3,268 points, but I’d be shocked if it’s less than 7,500. My “on top” pick is Tapiture, who should benefit from the inside draw by tracking Coastline and/or Tanzanite Cat assuming at least one of those two go from posts two and three.

Tapiture would also be my SHOWdown selection. I think Strong Mandate is the most likely to be best out of this group going forward, but the layoff and training concerns me. He could run a “needs one” race and finish a good fourth, but that’s not good enough for SHOWdown.

I already mentioned a big reason I’m against Strong Mandate at the price but another is the post, and that’s the reason I picked Tapiture on top instead of Ride On Curlin. Posts 8 and beyond have won just 2% of races going 1 1/16 miles this meeting at Oaklawn with an impact value of 0.18. So my selections in order are 3-8-2-7-6-1.

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