Monday's Grade 3 Southwest proved so popular with horsemen, they'll run it twice. In order to accommodate the 21 colts and geldings entered in the one-mile classic prep, Oaklawn Park officials have split the race into two divisions worth $250,000 apiece.
California invaders feature prominently in both divisions. In the first, the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Longview Drive has been accompanied by Castaway, a last-out maiden winner for Bob Baffert, and Unbridled's Note, a debut winner at Churchill Downs on October 30 for Steve Asmussen.
Longview Drive is no stranger to the south. After racking up a pair of stakes wins on the northern California fair circuit last fall, the chestnut rallied for third in the Delta Downs Jackpot after a slow start. His sophomore campaign began in the Grade 3 Sham on January 7, where he ran a credible third after setting torrid splits of :22 3/5, :45 4/5 and 1:09 3/5.
Castaway, a son of Street Sense, is much improved since stretching out around two turns. He finally put it all together in a January 21 maiden at Santa Anita, leading throughout to graduate in his sixth lifetime start.
Unbridled's Note, a half-brother to multiple Grade 1 winner Spoken Fur, has the least experience of the 11 entered in first Southwest division, but looked highly promising when breaking his maiden by 4 1/2 lengths going six furlongs.
The local contingent is led by four of the top five finishers from the January 16 Smarty Jones. Junebugred rallied from fifth under a ground-saving ride by Joe Bravo to take the Smarty Jones by a neck over Reckless Trip, who might have run the best race of them all having endured a five-wide trip throughout.
Stakes winner Jake Mo raced three-wide for most of the Smarty Jones, but weakened late to fourth in a solid effort. Fifth that day was Laurie's Rocket, whose attempt to lead all the way fell short. Farther up the track in the Smarty Jones was No Spin, a stakes winner on grass who's struggled to find the same form on dirt.
Majestic Stride, a 3 1/2-length maiden winner for Jeff Bonde at Oaklawn on January 22, stretches out from six furlongs in this spot. The first Southwest division is completed by the allowance class Red Jack and Ring It Up.
Secret Circle, who captured the inaugural Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint last fall for Baffert, headlines the second division. The bay stretched out for the first time in the Sham, tracking in second behind Longview Drive most of way. Secret Circle seized a short lead from that rival a furlong out and then was caught by Out of Bounds in the final yards. The half-length defeat suggested the son of Eddington could be more than the just a one-turn specialist.
The main competition is likely to come from a pair of Oaklawn-based runners, Apprehender and Cyber Secret. Apprehender debuted less than a month ago in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight, but thoroughly dominated his rivals in the mud to win by 7 1/2 lengths. The son of Posse earned a BRIS Speed rating of 103 and is trained by Ingrid Mason.
Cyber Secret, purchased privately last fall by Oaklawn owner Charles Cella, won a first-level allowance by 5 1/4 lengths going 1 1/16 miles on February 4. The son of Broken Vow is trained by Lynn Whiting, who saddled Lil E. Tee to a third-place finish in the Southwest 20 years ago prior to that colt's upset win in the Kentucky Derby. Other last-out allowance winners likely to offer longer odds on the tote are Scatman and Pee H Dee.
Big Wednesday won three of four starts last year, including the Fitz Dixon Jr. Memorial Juvenile at Presque Isle Downs. However, all three scores occurred over the Pennsylvania track's Tapeta surface, and he was a distant fourth in his only prior start on dirt.
Trainer John Servis and jockey Stewart Elliott, who teamed up to win the Southwest in 2004 with Smarty Jones, will be represented by Adirondack King, a restricted stakes winner at Parx last fall who finished third as the favorite in the seven-furlong Pasco at Tampa Bay Downs last time.
The second Southwest division is completed by outsiders Z Rockstar, Chalybeate Springs and King Coral.