Cutacorner the value play of Southwest

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

February 15th, 2016

Today's $200,000 San Vicente (G2) at Santa Anita is obviously a race of great interest as it marks the return of juvenile colt champion Nyquist. However, with just five horses set to start following the early scratch of Electrifying, it's not a great race to bet on. The same can not be said about a more evenly-matched field of 14 (with 12 betting interests) lining up a short while later in the $500,000 Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn Park.

Morning-line favorite Collected exits a victory in the Sham (G3) at Santa Anita, but the form of that race was not exactly flattered when runner-up Let's Meet in Rio failed to fire over the weekend in the Robert B. Lewis (G2).

There are questions surrounding the other favorites as well. Discreetness, winner of the $150,000 Smarty Jones last time, drew a highly unfavorable post (14) in the Southwest. Whitmore, meanwhile, has proven very effective in six-furlong races, but is still an unknown quantity going around two turns. He's certainly bred to handle it being by Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) winner Pleasantly Perfect, and he's shown plenty of promise overcoming two bad breaks to win going away in maiden and allowance company.

Synchrony, a late-closing third in the Smarty Jones, is another who figures to get better with distance. Both he and his coupled stablemate, Suddenbreakingnews, appear to be very serious threats along with Whitmore.

However, the horse I'll back at a price is Cutacorner (12-1 ML), whose first-level allowance win on January 21 over the Southwest course and distance compares favorably with the outcome of the Smarty Jones run three days earlier. Cutacorner earned a 92 BRIS Speed rating, the same as the winning Discreetness. A little slower to develop and get his first win that most of his rivals, the gray son of Even the Score appears to peaking at the right time.

Cutacorner is trained by Hall of Famer Jack Van Berg, whose enjoying a mini-renaissance so far at Oaklawn with seven wins from 31 starts (thru Sunday). Three decades after the stable peaked during the Triple Crown season with the likes of Alysheba and Gate Dancer, it would be quite the story to see Van Berg in the spotlight again at this time of the year.

First is the Southwest, where Cutacorner going in doesn't look out of place at all.