Connecting the Kentucky Derby Dots: One Liner's Southwest Stakes
One Liner wins the Southwest Stakes (Coady Photo/Oaklawn Park)
by Alastair Bull
Connecting the dots of what One Liner taught us about the Kentucky Derby picture with winning the Southwest Stakes
SETTTING: Uncontested was strongly favoured after his 5-1/4 length gate-to-wire victory in the Smarty Jones Stakes. Many of the beaten contingent from that day returned to face him again, including runner-up Petrov. Late-running Lookin At Lee, fourth in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and second in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (both G1), was having his first 3-year-old start. Unbeaten Todd Pletcher-trained colt One Liner and the Tapit colt Silver Dust were interesting newcomers.
FACTORS OF NOTE: Uncontested’s victory in the Smarty Jones was on a sloppy track, so there was interest in whether he could dominate on a dry track while conceding between 4 and 7 pounds to his opponents. One Liner was facing stakes company for the first time but the horse he beat by 1-1/2 lengths on debut, Royal Copy, had subsequently finished a nose second to Practical Joke in the Hopeful Stakes (G1).
BETTING: Uncontested firmed from 5-2 morning line odds to be an even money favorite. There was strong support for both Silver Dust (in from 10-1 to 7-1) and Lookin At Lee (in from 8-1 to 5-1). One Liner firmed slightly from 7-2 to 3-1, while Petrov (5-1 to 8-1) was relatively unwanted.
CHANGING BETS: Perhaps the biggest factor in deciding on a late change was going to be the weather, given that Uncontested’s Smarty Jones victory was in the mud. With the rain staying away, punters had to ask if even-money odds were good value.
THE RACE: The race looked like a repeat of the Smarty Jones, with Uncontested leading and Petrov stalking him. But this time, Petrov dashed past Uncontested at the top of the stretch, with only One Liner, fourth early on, going with him. It was One Liner who had more finishing speed, racing 3-1/2 lengths clear despite running greenly. Lookin At Lee, who trailed by a long way early, rallied late to take third but he was 8-1/4 lengths behind Petrov. Silver Dust finished fourth, while Uncontested faded badly in the stretch to sixth.
REACTION: "By the time we got to the 3/8th pole I had to get aggressive with him and let him know it was time to get busy. Then he got aggressive and then he got competitive. From there, I knew he had it won." – jockey John Velazquez.
PEDIGREE: Bred by Kingswood Farm and owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, and SF Racing, One Liner is by Into Mischief, a Harlan’s Holiday half brother to champion mare Beholder. Into Mischief was the leading 2-year-old sire in 2016 after producing six black type juvenile winners, among them the grade I winner Practical Joke. A grade I winner of the CashCall Futurity at two, the Spendthrift Farm resident’s progeny include the winners of two Kentucky Derby preps at 1-1/8 miles, Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Goldencents and Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Vicar’s In Trouble. One Liner is the first foal of the winning Cherokee Run mare Cayala. His third dam is Race the Wild Wind, winner of the 1-1/8 mile Santa Maria Handicap (G1). The family has produced Albertus Maximus, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and the 1-1/8 mile Donn Handicap (G1), but most of the other top performers in the family (Daredevil, King Charlemagne, Meshaheer) have been best as juveniles or sprinters, so there must be some doubt about One Liner’s ability to stay the Derby distance.
KENTUCKY DERBY IMPACT: One Liner made his first appearance on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, earning 10 points to move to ninth. Petrov’s four points took him to eight points overall and 15th position, while the two points earned by Lookin At Lee moved him to seventh on the leaderboard with 12 points. Silver Dust’s fourth means he made his first appearance on the leaderboard with one point. Uncontested remains on 11 points to be in eighth position.
POST RACE: Pletcher was delighted with One Liner, especially as he thought the horse had more in reserve. Petrov’s trainer Ron Moquett said he was proud of how his horse’s effort, and particularly happy that rider Jose Ortiz managed to keep him on the speed. Uncontested’s trainer Wayne Catalano was disappointed his charge couldn’t show more fight when challenged.
NEXT START: Pletcher said he was undecided whether One Liner would return to Oaklawn Park for the Rebel Stakes (G2) March 18, or if he would seek out another Derby prep. He was also unsure if he would ask One Liner to run once or twice more prior to the Derby. Locally-trained Petrov is likely to remain at Oaklawn Park for the Rebel Stakes and/or the Arkansas Derby (G1).
TRIPLE CROWN TAKEAWAYS: One Liner was undoubtedly the most impressive horse in the race, and he looks to have potential to improve further, though his pedigree suggests Derby stamina could be questionable. Petrov continues to run well, while Lookin At Lee may improve further on his first 3-year-old start and possibly may benefit from 1-1/4 miles should he earn a Kentucky Derby start. It remains to be seen if Uncontested’s effort was a blip or a hint that he requires sloppy footing.
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