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Southwest Stakes History

Once upon a time, not all that long time ago, the Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn Park was a sleepy little stakes race held in late February or early March, with a purse ranging from $50,000 to $100,000.

Then on a sunny day in 1992, a horse named Lil E. Tee finished third in the Southwest, beaten a head for second place by Pine Bluff. A few months later, Lil E. Tee sprung a memorable upset in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Pine Bluff battled to victory in the Preakness (G1). Suddenly, the Southwest wasn’t quite so sleepy.

Serving as a local steppingstone toward the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn, the Southwest has risen steadily in prominence since Lil E. Tee and Pine Bluff launched it into the spotlight. Champions Smoke Glacken and Lawyer Ron won the race in 1997 and 2006, respectively, and fan favorite Smarty Jones stopped off in the Southwest winner’s circle prior to his runaway victories in the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

Held over a mile for much of its history, the Southwest achieved Grade 3 status in 2008 and was lengthened to 1 116 miles in 2013, the same year it became an official Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race offering 10 qualification points to the winner. Champion 3-year-old Will Take Charge was the first runner of note to contest the newly-restructured Southwest, finishing sixth before going on to compete in all three legs of the 2013 Triple Crown.

The 2017 edition also came up strong as One Liner powered to victory in 1:41.85, establishing a stakes record. Distant third-place finisher Lookin At Lee went on to finish second in the Kentucky Derby, reiterating the Southwest’s position as an important prep for the spring classics. With a purse value reaching $500,000 in 2016 and $750,000 in 2020, it’s safe to say the Southwest is wide awake and here to stay.

By J. Keeler Johnson

Southwest Stakes Recap

Several strains of early three-year-old form came together in the Southwest S. (G3) at Oaklawn Park Jan. 29, and it was Californian form which came to the fore.

In a terrific struggle to the wire, the Sham S. (G3) winner Newgrange got up in the final sixteenth after stalking the pace for jockey John Velazquez, winning by 1 12 lengths. However, the son of Violence did not earn any points on the Road to the 2022 Kentucky Derby table as his trainer Bob Baffert has been suspended by Churchill Downs Inc.

Barber Road, previously second in the Smarty Jones S. at Oaklawn Jan. 1, came from last with a highly impressive rally to take second. The Race Day colt was the only runner among the early trailers to make inroads toward the stretch and should continue to feature in the Derby prep races.

His effort earned him four points on the Derby Road table, taking him to eight in total and 13th ranking overall. He was also able to turn the tables on his Smarty Jones conqueror Dash Attack, who lost his unbeaten record when finishing fifth.

Ben Diesel put up a nice effort for third, finding a rails run in the stretch and being in the contest to win until the last sixteenth. He earned two points on the Road table and moved to three points overall.

Kavod fought well for fourth placing and earned one point, moving his total on the 2022 Road to the Kentucky Derby table up to two.

By Alastair Bull