Gray Attempt aims to repel new challengers in Southwest

Feb 17, 2019 Kellie Reilly/

Smarty Jones S. winner Gray Attempt will try to follow up in Monday’s $500,000 Southwest S. (G3), the second prep race on Oaklawn Park’s road to the Kentucky Derby (G1). While five re-oppose from the Smarty Jones, his stiffest competition arguably comes from stakes debuter Jersey Agenda and shippers Cutting Humor and Sueno.

Jersey Agenda heads a posse of five Southwest entrants for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Charles Fipke’s homebred missed by a half-length in his unveiling on the Kentucky Downs turf, but has yet to lose in two dirt starts. In both his Churchill Downs maiden score and recent victory in an Oaklawn allowance, Jersey Agenda vied for the lead before pulling clear with apparently something in reserve. The 5-1 chance looks more than ready for the class test with regular rider Ricardo Santana Jr.

Three of Asmussen’s phalanx aim to turn the tables on Gray Attempt after chasing him home in the Smarty Jones. Long Range Toddy came closest, running him to a neck while digging in on the rail. Previously the winner of three straight at Remington, capped by the Springboard Mile, Long Range Toddy might be more comfortable with an outside trip. Boldor was another neck away in third in the Smarty Jones, but 3-2 favorite Bankit never got involved in sixth. Now Bankit switches riders, luring Jose Ortiz to town. Rounding out the Asmussen quintet is Ninth Street, most recently second in the Big Drama S. at Delta Downs.

Todd Pletcher relies on Cutting Humor, whose 1-for-4 record includes losses in tough company. The well-named son of First Samurai and Pun caught a sloppy track first time out at Belmont and settled for second to Looking at Bikinis. Next seen at Keeneland, Cutting Humor wound up third to Plus Que Parfait (the future Kentucky Jockey Club [G2] runner-up) and Harvey Wallbanger (the Holy Bull [G2] winner). After finally breaking his maiden at Gulfstream Park West, Cutting Humor was second in a Gulfstream allowance to a potentially smart winner, Bourbon War. Hall of Famer John Velazquez comes in for the ride aboard the 3-1 morning-line favorite.

Also invading from Florida is Olympic Runner from the Mark Casse barn. Like stablemate War of Will, another Gary Barber colorbearer, Olympic Runner lost on turf before taking a leap forward on dirt. The parallel ends there, though, since War of Will had been competing at a much higher level on turf. And Olympic Runner’s maiden win at Gulfstream last out came in an off-the-turf event in the slop, not always the best guide.

Sueno ships in from Santa Anita, where the Keith Desormeaux trainee finished second to Gunmetal Gray in the Sham (G3). The form looks reasonably solid with Gunmetal Gray coming back to take runner-up honors behind Mucho Gusto in the Robert B. Lewis (G3), Sham third-place finisher Much Better dominating an allowance next time out, and Sham fourth Gray Magician taking second in Saturday’s Miracle Wood at Laurel. Sueno already boasts a stakes win in the Gold Rush at Golden Gate Fields two starts back, and he picks up jockey Corey Lanerie.

Gray Attempt rates as the joint second choice on the morning line with Sueno, both pegged at 7-2. Trained by William “Jinks” Fires, the gray colt brings a three-race winning streak into the Southwest. Each has been accomplished in pacesetting fashion, from his Churchill maiden to the Sugar Bowl S. at Fair Grounds to his two-turn debut in the Smarty Jones over a mile. Gray Attempt figures to go forward again from the rail for Shaun Bridgmohan, and he’ll try to hold on for an extra sixteenth of a mile in the Southwest.

Aside from Asmussen’s aforementioned Long Range Toddy, Boldor, and Bankit, others exiting the Smarty Jones are Super Steed and Six Shooter. Super Steed is better than his seventh, since he’d previously traded decisions with Boldor, albeit in sprints. By 2010 Kentucky Derby hero Super Saver and out of a half-sister to Grade 1 winners Danza and Majestic Harbor, Super Steed deserves another chance over a route for trainer Larry Jones. Six Shooter, beaten only 1 1/2 lengths when fourth in the Smarty Jones, adds blinkers for the rematch. In his prior start, he defeated Asmussen’s Ninth Street in the Big Drama.

The Southwest concludes the 19-race Kentucky Derby “Prep Season” with its 10-4-2-1 points structure. The 16-race “Championship Series” kicked off in Saturday’s Risen Star (G2) won by War of Will.

You can watch and wager on the Southwest at, and study the free past performances courtesy of Brisnet. Post time is scheduled for 6:09 p.m. (EST) Monday.

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