How to bet the 2018 Southwest Stakes
Let’s preview the runners:
#1 My Boy Jack was never a factor finishing third to McKinzie in the Sham (G3) and after running his best races on turf, he appears up against it in this spot.
#2 Sporting Chance began to come on for D. Wayne Lukas last summer and was poised to win the Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga by open lengths before something went amiss as he veered out in deep stretch. Tiznow colt still managed to save a neck decision but immediately headed to the sidelines and it’s fair to question his fitness stretching out to two turns off a 168-day layoff. His trip rates as a more compelling question; Sporting Chance registered 100 and 104 BRIS E1 and E2 Pace ratings last time and brings high speed to his return.
#3 Principe Guilherme is cross-entered to Saturday’s Risen Star (G2) and trainer Steve Asmussen indicated connections were just taking a look in this spot. And considering the speedy colt is sandwiched between a pair of classy front-running types, Principe Guilherme figures to remain home at Fair Grounds.
#4 Mourinho shipped to Hot Springs, Arkansas and smoked his rivals on the front end of the January 15 Smarty Jones, registering a career-best 99 BRIS Speed rating for the 3 ¼-length decision. The Super Saver colt brings improving form into the 1 1/16-mile test but won’t receive the same set-up in a speed-laden field. He does have Oaklawn stakes aficionado Bob Baffert, a four-time Kentucky Derby winner and Hall of Fame trainer, in his corner.
#5 Road to Damascus overcame a poor start to break his maiden the second time out, shipping to Tampa Bay Downs and stretching out to two turns. $475k Pioneerof the Nile colt is taking an ambitious jump to stakes company but could have plenty of upside for Todd Pletcher, who won last year’s Southwest with One Liner.
#6 Seven Trumpets has displayed improved speed recently and ran a big one in the mud last time, grudgingly falling short by a half-length in the January 13 Jerome. Stretches out to two turns for Dale Romans but BRIS Speed numbers are a little light.
#7 Retirement Fund invades from Fair Grounds with a perfect mark, winning a pair of two-turn starts by open lengths in wire-to-wire fashion, but look for him to switch to rating tactics given the other speed in the line-up. Asmussen pupil facing a class check.
#8 Zing Zang was not a factor recording fourth in the Lecomte and while he’s never run fast from four career starts, the confirmed closer could receive the right set-up.
#9 Kentucky Club dropped to the $30,000 maiden claiming to record an eight-length maiden tally last time but registered only an 85 Speed rating in his sixth career start.
#10 Combatant reduced the final margin finishing a clear second in the one-mile Smarty Jones, notching a 98 BRIS Late Pace figure rallying against a loose-on-the-lead winner, and should receive the right set-up. Love the progress Scat Daddy colt is making for Asmussen and expecting a big finish.
#11 Ezmosh does his best running on the engine and may be sent to avoid being caught wide from an outside post. Unplaced in a pair of previous stakes attempts, Ezmosh looks hard-pressed to turns things around in this spot.
Combatant finished like a 3-year-old with more to offer in the Smarty Jones and moves forward with his first stakes win in the Southwest. A scrum for the early lead appears likely and the improving sophomore won’t be stuck rating behind a clear leader through a 48-second half-mile like last time; he’ll be rolling with Ricardo Santana Jr. I will key him in straight and vertical exotics.
I'm taking a contrarian view toward the probable front-runners at expected short odds but will add a couple of others as back-ups in multi-race wagers.
Road to Damascus impressed recording his maiden win last out and could get involved in the final furlongs with Johnny Velazquez picking up the mount. Zing Zang should be charging in the latter stages, registering BRIS Late Pace ratings 93-99-98 in the last three outings, and Tapit colt may continue to show more for Asmussen.