by Johnny D
February 25, 2021
Two major 3-year-old races, the twice-postponed Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park and the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park, promise to alter top rungs of the Kentucky Derby points standings. The former race is worth 10-4-2-1 points, respectively, to the top four finishers and the latter rewards a hefty 50-20-10-5 points. Below is horse-by-horse analysis of each race plus a suggested wager.
First, let’s talk Beat the Host: Greg Peterson did some standings altering himself as he posted a season-high weekly earnings total of $273, well above the previous mark of $185.50 posted by Craig Yoshino Jan. 13. Peterson’s monster score moved him into third place overall in the cumulative earnings race ($514), behind Steven Cziguth and Maria Cimino at $555.50 and $527.50, respectively. Price horses were plentiful last week as both second and third place finishers Cziguth ($230.50) and Christopher Skotz ($221.50) also topped Yoshino’s previous weekly high total. Peterson, Cziguth and Skotz earned $1,000, $750 and $250, respectively, in weekly prizes.
Saturday is your last chance to qualify for the $15,000 Beat the Host Championship on March 13 by defeating NBC Sports analyst and former Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship winner Eddie Olcyzk. Registration is free and players must make single, ‘live’ $5 Win wagers on one horse in each of 10 mandatory races. $2,000 in weekly prizes also is on the line.
OAKLAWN PARK // $750,000 GRADE 3 SOUTHWEST STAKES
Race 10 // 5:58PM ET
10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby Points
1. ESSENTIAL QUALITY (COX/SAEZ) - 6/5
They say you have to knock out the reining champ before you get to wear the crown. If true, that means someone will need to knock off Essential Quality in here. Unbeaten in 3 starts at 2, he won the Eclipse Award as the nation’s top freshman male by defeating #4 Jackie’s Warrior and 12 others in the Gr. 1 BC Juvenile. A hot early pace may have aided his closing charge that day but he has been closer to the pace before while winning the Gr. 1 Breeders Futurity. Both of those Grade 1 races were at Keeneland around two turns. He hasn’t raced since that November victory but has worked every 6-7 days at Fair Grounds. Trainer Brad Cox continues his winning ways stateside in 2021, will Essential Quality do likewise? It’s always interesting to see how horses develop in sophomore seasons because there’s always a question about if they’ll effectively make that huge step from 2 to 3. If you’re interested in wagering against a champion who hasn’t been in the ring in a while that may or may not have improved his game, the twice-delayed Gr. 3 Southwest is your cup of tea. Win Contender.
2. SAFFA'S DAY (ASMUSSEN/SANTANA JR.) - 15/1
This son of Carpe Diem has two maiden wins to his credit. One came in his initial voyage in October, but he later was disqualified from that victory. A pair of stakes tries came in his next two starts. He was sixth in the Nyquist Stakes at Keeneland in November and a well-beaten fourth in the Springboard Mile at Remington in December. That latter effort should have earned him points toward a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate, but he raced with Lasix and that’s not allowed this season in races awarding Derby points. Saffa’s Day finally earned and kept a diploma following a maiden win last out at Oaklawn Park in January. He’s a longshot in here off that maiden tally. Pass.
3. LAST SAMURAI (STEWART/COURT) - 20/1
This Malibu Moon colt won a 7-furlong maiden race at Churchill in Sept. Wrapped around that effort are a pair of poor outings. This guy would need to turn his ship around in a hurry to have a say about the outcome of this in this race. Pass.
4. JACKIE'S WARRIOR (ASMUSSEN/ROSARIO) - 9/5
Like 2-year-old champ #1 Essential Quality, Jackie’s Warrior hasn’t started since the Gr. 1 BC Juvenile where he was fourth as the odds-on choice. That was his fifth 2-year-old start, his first around two turns and, most critically, his first loss. The defeat figuratively stole the Juvenile Eclipse Award right from between Jackie’s Warrior’s hooves. Heading into the BC Juvenile not only was this colt unbeaten; he had never been headed at any call. It was a hot early pace that afternoon and Jackie’s Warrior stalked perfectly, made the lead in the stretch and fell apart late. Was it the two turns that caused his downfall? Or, was he tuckered out from a perfect 4-race win streak that began in June at Churchill and ended in November at Keeneland? He has trained well for this race at Fair Grounds—every 6-7 days for Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, who bats 20% off 61-180 days layoff, according to Daily Racing Form stats. This son of Maclean’s Music appears to be the only true speed in this race. That’s an advantage over #1 Essential Quality. Has Jackie’s Warrior improved since November and can he negotiate a mile and one-sixteenth around two turns as effectively as he handled shorter distances and one turn in his first four wins? Big question, but if the answer is ‘yes,’ he wins. Win Contender.
#5 SANTA CRUISER (DESORMEAUX/ERAMIA) - 12/1
This fellow ought to be fit. He raced Feb. 13 in the Gr. 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds and barely picked up his hooves. He was a big price, but some gave him a puncher’s chance that afternoon off a troubled, late-running, well-beaten fourth placing in the Gr. 3 Lecomte Stakes. Other than the fact that he should be more fit than some of his foes, there’s not much to recommend this guy for prime finish positions. Bottoms of Tris and Supers.
6. WOODHOUSE (TROUT/CABRERA) - 15/1
Got to admit he’s fit. He last raced Feb. 11 when third in a muddy mile and one-sixteenth allowance race at Oaklawn Park. That followed a December maiden win at Remington going one mile. Woodhouse was nearly 17-1 in the allowance race and lost by only one length. He’s got a late-running style and that along with fitness could find him rounding out the bottom legs of exotics. Bottoms of Tris and Supers.
7. SPEILBERG (BAFFERT/GARCIA) - 6/1
This son of Union Rags seems a cut below the usual Baffert-trained Oaklawn Park monsters. Perhaps Frankenstein will show up here for the Gr. 2 Rebel or Gr. 1 Arkansas Derby. This colt’s won 2 of 7 starts—a Del Mar maiden and the Gr. 2 Los Alamitos Derby. Last out he finished fourth in the Gr. 3 Robert Lewis, beaten more than 11 lengths. In his final work for this race, he was outworked to the wire while inside fellow Baffert 3-year-old Freedom Fighter, second to the Baffert-trained Concert Tour in the Grade 2 San Vicente at Santa Anita. Baffert is the only trainer with such incredible depth in the sophomore division, but this guy is not a member of the trainer’s ‘A’ team. Exotics Only.
It’s pretty much a guessing game between dual Gr. 1 winners 6-5 favorite #1 Essential Quality and 9-5 second choice #4 Jackie’s Warrior. Both are coming off layoffs, have trained forwardly and are conditioned by guys who are solid at having horses ready to fire off the bench. A slight edge goes to #4 Jackie’s Warrior based on his early speed advantage. There doesn’t seem to be too much of that in this race. #7 Spielberg may be closest to #4 Jackie’s Warrior early and he might hang around for a piece. Overall, let’s give the edge to #4 Jackie’s Warrior in a race that really doesn’t inspire much wagering interest.
GULFSTREAM PARK // $300,000 GRADE 2 FASIG-TIPTON FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH STAKES
Race 14 // 6:10PM ET
50-20-10-5 Kentucky Derby Points
1. DRAIN THE CLOCK (JOSEPH JR./ZAYAS) - 5/1
This son of Maclean’s Music has won 4 of 5 starts—all sprints—and had a legit excuse for his only defeat when an iron broke and he lost the rider. Last out at Gulfstream, he comfortably won the Gr. 3 Swale Stakes by more than 6 lengths. He’s got speed, the rail and some talent. That combination makes him dangerous. Can he effectively negotiate two turns? Who knows? At the finish of the Swale he certainly looked as if he could easily go around again. He’s 3 for 3 at Gulfstream, too. Drain the Clock also hasn’t missed a beat since beginning his career for 21% trainer Saffie Joseph. Jockey Edgard Zayas is a 28% winner when riding for Joseph. The colt’s 5 career starts have come once-a-month since September and his Beyer Speed figures have improved in each start, except for the time when he lost the rider. Lots to like. Win Contender.
2. PRIME FACTOR (PLETCHER/ORTIZ JR.) - 5/1
Trainer Todd Pletcher hits at 24% and jockey Irad Ortiz wins at 27% this season at Gulfstream. Together they’re batting an amazing 33%. Those stats alone make Prime Factor somewhat of a threat in here. He’s only raced twice—a romping nearly 9 length maiden win first out and a well-beaten third in the Gr. 3 Holy Bull behind #8 Greatest Honour. This guy was the GR. 3 Holy Bull favorite who stalked the early pace before coming up short in the lane. Can that effort be forgiven? Sure, it can. But for what reason? The colt raced 3-wide the whole way, but the pace wasn’t very demanding, and he had nothing in the lane. It’s always a bad idea to exclude a Pletcher/Ortiz runner from a Gulfstream wager but that last race was pretty disappointing. Exotics Only.
3. SOSOSUBTLE (DE LA CERDA/LOPEZ) - 20/1
This gelding won a state-bred maiden mile race at Gulfstream by more than 4 lengths at 18-1 last out. That was a dirt start after a failed turf try first out. He would be a big surprise in here. Pass.
4. FIRE AT WILL (MAKER/CARMOUCHE) - 7/2
Winner of the Gr. 1 BC Juvenile Turf at 30-1, this Declaration of War colt will be making his first start since November and his first over what should be a fast dirt track. He’s got 3 wins in 4 starts—2 on turf and 1 over just 3 foes in the off-the-turf With Anticipation over a sloppy track at Saratoga. The Mike Maker-trained colt also won the Gr. 2 Pilgrim at Belmont on turf. Can he shift his sparkling turf talent to the main track? As a rule, we believe that nearly all horses favor one surface over the other. It’s rare to find an animal that is equally effective on turf and dirt. It happens but it’s rare. Based on that, we’ll go against Fire At Will in here and consider him more strongly when he returns to turf. Pass.
5. JIRAFALES (DELGADO/CASTELLANO) - 30/1
Was soundly defeated last out in the Gr. 3 Holy Bull at 32-1. Pass.
6. KING'S OVATION (ROMANS/LANERIE) - 15/1
Second by more than 6 lengths to Drain the Clock last out in the Gr. 3 Swale, the Not This Time colt will try two turns for the first time. He has a sparkling :59 4/5 best-of-42 workout on his resume for this. Still, he’ll need to really pull a rabbit out of the hat to have a say in this outcome. Pass.
7. TARANTINO (BRISSET/GAFFLAIONE) - 8/1
Here’s another runner that’s had some turf success and was able to finish second to #8 Greatest Honour in the Gr. 3 Holy Bull on dirt. At 2, he broke maiden and was second by a nose in the Zuma Beach--both on Del Mar and Santa Anita turf, respectively. In December, he won an allowance grass race at Gulfstream. In the Gr. 3 Holy Bull he forced the early pace and was able to finish evenly. He has improved Beyer Speed Figures in each race for trainer Rodolphe Brisset and that’s always a good sign for a 3-year-old. He’ll probably be stalking the pace again in here but it’s asking a lot of this son of Pioneerof the Nile to improve too much on his last try at nearly 27-1. Exotics Only.
8. GREATEST HONOUR (MCGAUGHEY/J. ORTIZ) - 9/5
This son of Tapit looked sensational winning the Gr. 3 Holy Bull Stakes last out at Gulfstream. Trainer Shug McGaughey has traversed this Gulfstream sophomore path before and was successful negotiating it with Kentucky Derby winner Orb in 2013. Greatest Honour seems to have similar talent to Orb, including a strong finishing kick. It’s not unreasonable to think that this colt could follow in Orb’s Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby-winning hoofprints. Greatest Honour races from off the pace and that’s not the best place to come from going a mile and one-sixteenth at Gulfstream Park, but he appears to be better than these foes. Most Probable Winner.
9. TIZ TACT TOE (HESS JR./MARAGH) - 30/1
This gelding was claimed for $50k last out by trainer Bob Hess. Connections look to parlay that expenditure into a quick buck in the Gr. 2 Fountain of Youth. This guy hasn’t won a race yet and switches to dirt for the first time so a win in here would be gigantic upset. Pass.
10. PAPETU (SANO/ALVARADO) - 15/1
This son of Dialed In was a respectable 5-1 odds in the Gr. 3 Holy Bull and finished a respectable fourth. Unfortunately, he was more than 10 lengths behind winner #8 Greatest Honour. Papetu was second in the Mucho Macho Man just before the Holy Bull, explaining the Holy Bull mutuel attention. He has 2 five and one-half furlong wins to his credit and a pair of drubbings in the Gr. 2 Saratoga Special and Gr. 1 Hopeful at Saratoga on his 2-year-old resume. Pass.
#8 Greatest Honour looks like the real deal. It took him 4 starts to break maiden and that’s a bit unusual for a really good horse, but his Beyer Speed Figures have improved with each start—a great sign. Trainer Shug McGaughey doesn’t rush his horses and this guy is a great example of how the Hall-of-Famer works his magic.
#1 Drain the Clock is most dangerous. He’s got the rail, speed and talent. It will be interesting to see if anyone attempts to run with him early. #2 Prime Factor probably will stalk the pace along with #7 Tarantino. #10 Papetu probably will want to go early from the 10 hole. Still, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of early speed other than #1 Drain the Clock.
A lack of early speed favors #1 Drain the Clock and hurts #8 Greatest Honour. A 1-2 finish, in either order, seems the most logical outcome.
$20 EXACTA ($20)
#8 Greatest Honour
#1 Drain the Clock
$10 EXACTA ($10)
#1 Drain the Clock
#8 Greatest Honour