Far Right wins again in Southwest

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

February 23rd, 2015

Far Right has been the master of Oaklawn Park's road to the Kentucky Derby (G1) so far, following up his victory in the January 19 Smarty Jones S. with similar late-running heroics in Sunday's $300,000 Southwest S. (G3). This time, he did so over a sloppy track, and toting the top weight of 122 pounds.

Once again delivering an irresistible surge along the inside, Far Right drove three-quarters of a length clear of the battling pair of The Truth or Else and Mr. Z.  Far Right, the 5-2 second choice, paid $7.40. Hall of Famer Mike Smith was back aboard the Ron Moquett trainee, who now has 22 Kentucky Derby points.

Yet the Southwest doesn't quite propel Far Right into the top tier of Derby contenders. For starters, he had already defeated a few of the same rivals in the Smarty Jones, including perennial bridesmaid Mr. Z.  There were a couple of intriguing new shooters, but Sunday's redrawn field for the Southwest arguably wasn't as deep as the one originally entered. The Southwest had been scheduled for February 16, but was postponed to Sunday on account of adverse winter weather. Two decided to pass -- Todd Pletcher's smashing maiden winner J S Bach and Lecomte (G3) runner-up War Story (who went on to finish second in Saturday's Risen Star [G2] at Fair Grounds).

The Truth or Else was a couple of rungs below the best in New York last fall, when suffering double-digit defeats in a trio of graded stakes. Adding first-time Lasix for his reappearance in the Southwest, The Truth or Else turned in a remarkably improved performance. The Ken McPeek trainee took the overland route, going five-wide while circling from last, and outdueled Mr. Z for second.

Mr. Z had shown alarmingly wayward tendencies when veering to the outside in the Smarty Jones, frittering away a clear lead and ending up third. Although third again in the Southwest, the Zayat Stables colorbearer was more professional this time for his Hall of Fame trainer Wayne Lukas. After setting the pace, Mr. Z dug in resiliently in the stretch. He's now placed in seven stakes, which means he has talent, but at the same time suggests that he's reached his plateau.

Another observational point is the final time of the 1 1/16-mile Southwest, an uninspiring 1:47 2/5 on the sloppy, sealed track. In light of the conditions, I wouldn't be too harsh about it, but the question about the depth of the group lingers.

Looking ahead to his Derby prospects, Far Right's immediate pedigree doesn't scream 1 1/4 miles. Influences further back could help, but it remains to be seen if he'll have the same potent punch as the distances keep increasing.

Having laid out the reasons for caution, it should also be noted what Far Right does have in his favor. He's proven that he can handle himself in and among horses, navigating a passage through the field -- a definite plus in the hurly-burly of the Derby. He's admirably consistent with a career record of 8-3-2-2. And he has run well in all three starts at Churchill Downs, where he broke his maiden by five lengths.

Far Right can go some way toward answering these questions later in the prep season, when he's sure to face a stiffer group of shippers.

Click here for the race recap: Far Right again takes inside path to Southwest success

Far Right photo credit: Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography.