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Southwest likely to answer a lot of questions
Will the form of the January 16 San Rafael S. (G3) hold up better than the January 18 Smarty Jones S.? Will Hopeful S. (G1) winner DUBLIN (Afleet Alex) run his way back into the Kentucky Derby (G1) picture over a track his sire relished? Those are just a couple of the questions that will be answered following Monday's $250,000 Southwest S. (G3) at Oaklawn Park, a one-mile test has attracted a field of 10 three-year-olds including the top three from the San Rafael, the top four from the course-and-distance Smarty Jones, and Dublin, who makes his seasonal debut for D. Wayne Lukas.
The California delegation is led by the Bob Baffert-trained CONVEYANCE (Indian Charlie), who remained undefeated in three starts with a 1 3/4-length score in the San Rafael. He is joined by midpack closers CARDIFF GIANT (Yankee Gentleman) and DOMONATION (Maria's Mon), but the question with all of them is one of surface as none have raced over dirt before.
The contingent from the Smarty Jones is led by that race's 2 1/4-length victor DRYFLY (Jump Start), who races for Oaklawn owner Charles Cella. Dryfly took control from the start in that paceless affair, and while the splits were moderate on raw time, the gelding was visibly tired near the end over the tiring surface while under a drive by Calvin Borel.
An intriguing battle is shaping up on paper as both Conveyance and Dryfly prefer to race on the front end, and a prolonged duel could throw things to closers such as PLEASANT STORM (Pleasant Tap), who rallied from last of 12 to finish a clear second in the Smarty Jones. KITTY'S TURN (Langfuhr) and CRIDER (Closing Argument) were behind Pleasant Storm and would need improvement to threaten for the win.
Dublin registered a two-length score in the Hopeful in his third career outing, but was an even fifth in the Champagne S. (G1) and dismal seventh in the Iroquois S. (G3). Lukas has attributed the downturn in form to an entrapped epiglottis, since corrected by surgery. The son of Afleet Alex, who captured the Arkansas Derby (G2) and Mountain Valley S. at Oaklawn in 2005, has turned in two bullet works since arriving in Hot Springs, but will have to overcome post 10 in the Southwest under new rider Terry Thompson.
Shippers from Florida and Louisiana round out the field. From Palm Meadows in Florida is the Todd Pletcher-trained MISSION IMPAZIBLE (Unbridled's Song), who was out of action more than eight months after finish third in the Kentucky Juvenile S. (G3) last April. In his sophomore debut on January 9, the gray turned in a solid second-place effort versus allowance foes in the slop going six furlongs. Maiden claiming graduate COOL BULLET (Red Bullet) invades from Fair Grounds where he turned in a mild upset of the Sugar Bowl S. two back. Last time, however, the gelding bid for the lead in the stretch before tiring to fourth in the Lecomte S. (G3).