Pressured pace would benefit Lookin at Lee in Southwest

Profile Picture: James Scully

February 20th, 2017

Plenty of attention will be focused upon Oaklawn Park’s 10-race Presidents Day program. The highlights include a Kentucky Derby qualifier, the $500,000 Southwest (G3), and the return of Gun Runner in the $500,000 Razorback (G3).

The 1 1/16-mile Southwest is also part of the opening round of $25,000 Kentucky Derby Dream Bet at Players can qualify for the final round by cashing a $5 win bet in one of the remaining contest races in the first round.

The opening stages of the Southwest will be critical because Uncontested could be gone if able to clear like he did last time in the January 16 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn. There is some other potential speed, with Cool Arrow returning from a freshening after leading wire-to-wire in the December 11 Springboard Mile and One Liner showing good quickness winning a pair of Gulfstream sprints.

Either rival, or possibly a wildcard front-runner, will need to pressure Uncontested in order to set the table for Lookin at Lee.

Last seen finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), #4 Lookin at Lee will be returning against softer company after squaring off against Classic Empire and Not This Time in his last three starts. The Steve Asmussen-trained colt performed respectably, recording a pair of non-threatening seconds prior to the Juvenile, and the son of Lookin at Lucky has the opportunity to show more at age 3.

He can handle a track with moisture (afternoon showers possible) and I’m predicting a favorable set-up.

Lookin at Lee is my Southwest win pick, but I will spread in any multi-race bets with #1 Cool Arrow, #2 Silver Dust, #3 Uncontested and #10 Hence.

Gun Runner is obviously the horse to beat in the Razorback, which kicks off the Late Pick 4 sequence (races 7-10). But if he comes back a little short for any reason, #5 Hawaakom is a threat to capitalize. The 7-year-old gelding enters in career-best form for trainer Wesley Hawley, netting his fourth consecutive triple-digit BRIS Speed rating (102) with a rallying score in the January 21 Louisiana at Fair Grounds, and he’s won at Oaklawn previously. I’ll use him on Pick 4 tickets.

Here are a couple of other horses of interest on the program:

#4 First Heritage makes her second start back from a freshening in the 2nd race, finishing a good second versus $5k claimers over the track on January 19. Claimed last out, the 4-year-old steps up to face $7,500 claimers today and I like the class hike for the hard-trying filly (1st of 2nd in five of her last six starts). She figures to receive a good trip just off the speed, similar to her last couple of wins, and we know she can handle it wet. At 6-1 on the morning line, First Heritage is eligible to add value to the early Pick 4 (races 2-5).

#3 Cataroux makes his first start for Chris Hartman in the 5th race after being claimed for $25k last time and catches an 11-horse field lacking early speed. His best efforts came in front-running fashion last year and the 4-year-old gelding registered 95 E1 and 99 E2 Pace ratings last time. Look for him send from post 3 with Eduardo Perez and I’ll tab Cataroux wire-to-wire.