After being postponed multiple times due to poor weather conditions, the $750,000 Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn Park will finally take place on Saturday. The lucrative 1 1/16-mile race has produced 17 Kentucky Derby starters since 2010 and coincidentally awards 17 qualification points to the top four finishers, divided on a 10-4-2-1 basis.

Essential Quality
Total 3 start(s)
Wins:
3
Place:
0
Show:
0
Top Speed Rating:
(101) when rallying to victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1).
Total Earnings:
$1,335,144
Owner:
Godolphin
Breeder:
Godolphin
Trainer:
Brad Cox
Jockey:
Luis Saez
Sire:
Tapit
Dam:
Delightful Quality
Color:
Gray/roan

The champion two-year-old male of 2020, Essential Quality went undefeated in three starts last year, highlighted by a pace-tracking victory in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) and a stretch-running score in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1). A Godolphin homebred conditioned by high-percentage trainer Brad Cox, Essential Quality brings improving Brisnet Speed ratings to the mix, and his versatility is an asset. But he did benefit from a perfect pace setup in the Juvenile, and it's worth noting only one Juvenile winner since 2011 has returned to win his sophomore debut.

Saffa's Day
Total 4 start(s)
Wins:
1
Place:
0
Show:
0
Top Speed Rating:
(90) in a maiden race at Keeneland.
Total Earnings:
$62,034
Owner:
L and N Racing and Clark O. Brewster
Breeder:
SF Bloodstock
Trainer:
Steve Asmussen
Jockey:
Ricardo Santana
Sire:
Carpe Diem
Dam:
Shytoe Lafeet
Color:
Chestnut

The first of two Steve Asmussen trainees in the Southwest field, Saffa's Day has tactical speed and displayed impressive determination to win a one-mile maiden race at Oaklawn last month, prevailing by a nose in a three-horse photo finish. But his previous foray on the Road to the Kentucky Derby yielded a distant fourth-place effort in the Remington Springboard Mile, and Saffa's Day recently missed some training time due to the weather-related shutdowns at Oaklawn. A spot on the board might be the ceiling for his potential in the Southwest.

Last Samurai
Total 3 start(s)
Wins:
1
Place:
0
Show:
0
Top Speed Rating:
(76) when breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs.
Total Earnings:
$45,144
Owner:
Willis Horton Racing
Breeder:
Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings
Trainer:
Dallas Stewart
Jockey:
Jon Court
Sire:
Malibu Moon
Dam:
Lady Samuri
Color:
Chestnut

Although victorious in a seven-furlong maiden sprint at Churchill Downs last fall, Last Samurai has been beaten by double-digit margins in his two previous route races, including a 1 1/16-mile allowance event at Churchill Downs. Trainer Dallas Stewart has freshened Last Samurai since October, and an improved effort could be in the offing for his 2021 debut. But Last Samurai's career-best 76 Brisnet Speed rating leaves the chestnut colt with a lot of ground to make up, and his racing record suggests sprinting might be his true forte.

Jackie's Warrior
Total 5 start(s)
Wins:
4
Place:
0
Show:
0
Top Speed Rating:
(101) when wiring the Champagne (G1).
Total Earnings:
$502,564
Owner:
J. Kirk and Judy Robison
Breeder:
J & J Stables
Trainer:
Steve Asmussen
Jockey:
Joel Rosario
Sire:
Maclean's Music
Dam:
Unicorn Girl
Color:
Bay

One of the most accomplished two-year-olds of 2020, Jackie's Warrior won his first four starts by a minimum of 2 1/2 lengths, including front-running victories in the Saratoga Special (G2), Hopeful (G1), and Champagne (G1). A fourth-place effort in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) cost Jackie's Warrior the two-year-old championship, but he didn't run a bad race by any means, advancing into the teeth of a hot pace before weakening only slightly to finish just 3 1/4 lengths behind Essential Quality. Trainer Steve Asmussen has won the Southwest three times, and Jackie's Warrior has trained forwardly for his sophomore debut, suggesting a big rebound could be in the offing. As the only pure front-runner in the Southwest field, Jackie's Warrior will have every chance to shake loose on an easy lead and spring a mild upset.

Santa Cruiser
Total 5 start(s)
Wins:
1
Place:
1
Show:
1
Top Speed Rating:
(91) when breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs.
Total Earnings:
$85,792
Owner:
Calumet Farm
Breeder:
Calumet Farm
Trainer:
Keith Desormeaux
Jockey:
Richard E. Eramia
Sire:
Dialed In
Dam:
Sweet Sermon
Color:
Dark bay/brown

A front-running maiden winner at Churchill Downs last fall, Santa Cruiser failed to flash his early speed in two recent Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races, rallying to finish fourth in the Lecomte (G3) before running an even seventh in the Risen Star (G2). A return to front-running tactics could be the key to an improved performance from this Calumet Farm homebred, but it's unclear whether he has the class to hold his own against this caliber of competition.

Woodhouse
Total 2 start(s)
Wins:
1
Place:
0
Show:
1
Top Speed Rating:
(86) when finishing third in an Oaklawn allowance race.
Total Earnings:
$25,698
Owner:
Samuel F. Henderson
Breeder:
Blue Heaven Farm
Trainer:
C. R. Trout
Jockey:
David Cabrera
Sire:
Speightstown
Dam:
Magical Dream
Color:
Bay

Running long is clearly a strong suit for Woodhouse, who won his debut racing a mile at Remington Park before finishing third by one length in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Oaklawn Park. The latter race was contested on Feb. 11, so the subsequent weather-related shutdowns at Oaklawn shouldn't have a big impact on Woodhouse's fitness. But with a career-best 86 Brisnet Speed rating, he'll need improvement to challenge the main players in the Southwest.

Spielberg
Total 7 start(s)
Wins:
2
Place:
2
Show:
1
Top Speed Rating:
(101) when winning the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2).
Total Earnings:
$263,200
Owner:
SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Golconda Stables, Sienna Farm, and Robert E. Masterson
Breeder:
G. Watts Humphrey Jr.
Trainer:
Bob Baffert
Jockey:
Martin Garcia
Sire:
Union Rags
Dam:
Miss Squeal
Color:
Chestnut

The most experienced runner in the field with seven starts under his belt, Spielberg showed flashes of significant talent as a juvenile, placing twice against Grade 1 company before rallying to victory in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2). Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has won the Southwest four times and boasts a 10-for-35 (29%) record at Oaklawn since 2016, but Spielberg has been known to misfire on occasion and enters off a distant fourth-place finish in the Robert B. Lewis (G3). He'll need a rebound if he's going to challenge Essential Quality and Jackie's Warrior.