Sporting Chance faces Mourinho in Southwest return

Feb 16, 2018 Jennifer Caldwell/

Eleven sophomores were entered to go 1 1/16 miles on Presidents’ Day Monday at Oaklawn Park in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3).

The contest is the final event in the prep season portion of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series of points races. It is worth 10-4-2-1 points toward a starting berth in the May 5 Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs.

The Southwest is also the second in a four-race series Oaklawn cards for three-year-olds on the Kentucky Derby trail. Mourinho captured the first leg of the series, the Smarty Jones Stakes on January 15, and lines back up here under Drayden Van Dyke.

The Bob Baffert-trained son of Super Saver kicked off his sophomore campaign in the Smarty Jones, easily wiring that one-mile affair by 3 1/4 lengths. It was his first win since breaking his maiden at Santa Anita Park last September and his first start outside of California. Following his debut score, Mourinho finished second in Santa Anita’s Speakeasy Stakes and the Bob Hope Stakes (G3) at Del Mar, all while sprinting.

Sporting Chance will be stretching out past seven furlongs for the initial time on Monday while also making his three-year-old bow. The D. Wayne Lukas pupil finished second in his first outing last June at Churchill Downs, but shipped to Saratoga to wire his maiden by 2 1/4 lengths and take the Hopeful Stakes (G1) by a neck over Free Drop Billy, who next out romped by four lengths in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland.

Luis Saez has been aboard for both of Sporting Chance’s wins and retains the mount on the Tiznow colt in the Southwest.

Principe Guilherme is a surprise cross-entry in this one from the shedrow of Steve Asmussen, and one of four entrants from the trainer. The bay son of Tapit easily wired his first pair of races by a combined 17 1/4 lengths, then ran second after a troubled trip in the Lecomte Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds on January 13. The thought all along was Principe Guilherme would go in Fair Grounds’ next three-year-old prep, the Risen Star Stakes (G2), and he did enter that Saturday event. All expectations are he’ll run in that 8 1/2-furlong contest.

Asmussen also has Combatant in the Southwest. The bay son of Scat Daddy broke his maiden going a mile at Churchill last October, closed out his juvenile season with a runner-up effort in the December 17 Springboard Mile at Remington Park and returned January 15 to be second behind Mourinho in the Smarty Jones. Ricardo Santana Jr. was aboard for all three of those efforts and holds the reins again Saturday.

Retirement Fund puts his perfect two-for-two mark on the line here while making his stakes bow here as the third of four Southwest entries from the Assmusen barn. The Eskendereya colt posted wire jobs going a mile-and-70 yards at Fair Grounds in both of his efforts thus far under Shaun Bridgmohan, who has the call in this spot. Zing Zang is the final Asmussen trainee in this field and enters off a well-beaten fourth in the Lecomte. Corey Lanerie will be in the irons.

Seven Trumpets nearly wired the Jerome Stakes over the sloppy, sealed track at Aqueduct last out for conditioner Dale Romans, but was caught late by Firenze Fire and forced to settle for second by a half-length. Prior to that the Morning Line colt broke his maiden and captured an allowance/optional claimer, both at Churchill Downs while going 6 1/2 furlongs. Robby Albarado held the reins for those two efforts and takes back the mount.

Ezmosh finished sixth in his prior two outings against stakes company but did nearly wire an allowance/optional claimer going a mile at Oaklawn on January 13. The Brad Cox-conditioned son of Tizway was just nipped by a neck after dueling in the stretch and gets a rider change to Gary Stevens here.

Road to Damascus broke his maiden in his second career start while going a mile-and-40 yards at Tampa Bay Downs last out. In the Southwest, the Todd Pletcher charge will be visiting his third different track from as many lifetime starts with his third different rider, as John Velazquez will be aboard.

My Boy Jack is trying the dirt for third time from seven career races. He broke his maiden taking the Zuma Beach Stakes on Santa Anita’s turf in his fifth lifetime start, ran seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Del Mar, then was third last out over Santa Anita’s dirt in the Sham Stakes (G3). Kent Desormeaux returns to the saddle on the Keith Desormeaux pupil.

Kentucky Club is exiting an eight-length score against maiden claiming rivals at Oaklawn on January 27. That was the Oxbow colt’s sixth career start, and he’ll have to show major improvement for trainer D. Wayne Lukas to factor here under Ramon Vazquez.

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