This weekend looked to be stacked with some serious talent anyways, when some solid fields for the Hutchenson, Fountain of Youth, and the Risen Star were drawn, but when the Southwest Stakes was rescheduled from Monday, February 15 to the 20th, it added another diamond to the already sparkling line up.
The Hutcheson, a seven furlong sprint, would not normally be on anybody's early Derby radar, but with the return of Grade two winner D'Funnybone, Spectacular Bid Stakes winner, A Little Warm. D'Funnybone's last race was a gigantic flop in the Breeders Cup Juvenile. His loss could be contributed to being a below average two turn horse, or just not adjusting well to the Pro-Ride surface. The latter option would be the one I would be most incline to believe, since he reeled off two impressive wins in the Saratoga Special and Futurity Stakes. D'Funnybone will be the probable favorite, despite the recent form of A Little Warm.
The Risen Star Stakes will probably be one of those preps that will become overshadowed by the star power presented in the Southwest and Fountain of Youth. Nevertheless, with the likes of the talented but unlucky Discreetly Mine, upset Lecomte winner Ron the Greek, and impressive newcomers like Hotep, Tempted to Tapit, Drossemeyer, and Stay Put, it is a very solid and intriguing field. This race will be a proving ground for many of these horses. Ron the Greek will being using this race to prove that his LeComte was not a fluke, Discreetly Mine will try and rebound off a disappointing loss in the Spectacular Bid, and the four newcomers will trying to prove that they deserve a chance to take a shot at the Run for the Roses.
The Southwest is a very interesting race to look at. It's main contenders all have shown the potential to make an impact on the Derby Trail, but each has significant knocks against them. Dublin, a monstrous son of Afleet Alex, marked himself as a serious colt when easily defeating a star studded field in the Hopeful Stake. However he turned in two dismal performances in his next two starts, which his trainer, D. Wayne Lukas attributes to an entrapped epiglottis, which hampered his breathing. Dublin has since had surgery to correct the problem and has been working like a champion over the Oaklawn surface. Conveyance heads the California shippers, which includes Cardiff Giant and Domination. All three are very consistent, and Conveyance has even been compared to Holly Bull, but the knock against them is will they be able to handle the dirt? If all horses show the form they have in previous races the Southwest might just be the race to produce this years Derby winner.
Maybe I spoke a bit too soon, because back on the east coast a star studded cast of three year olds lines up for the 9 furlong Fountain of Youth. Buddy's Saint heads the field, coming into the race off of a nearly five length victory. The impressive looking son of Saint Liam has finished first in all three of his starts, though he was DQ after bumping in his maiden. Since then, however, he has been as good as gold, winning his last two starts with ease. Another notable colt is Jackson Bend, who came into his last start, the Holly Bull, with a five race win streak. He finished second in that spot, but was never really first. This race it figures that he would be a little tighter and ready for some action. Besides the top two you have the impressive Eskendereya, hard knocking Aikenite. The horses that figure to have the best chances at upsetting the top two at a price would probably Positive Split, Ice Box, and Pulsion.
Besides the three year old colts you have stakes like the Mineshaft which features Frisian Fire and General Quarters once again. Then you have the Tampa Bay Stakes, which will mark the return of Champion Male Older and Turf horse Gio Ponti, as he preps for his date in Dubai. Last but not least of the races featuring some of this year's talent is the Silverbulletday, where we will see the talented 3yr old filly Devil May Care, back in action. So sit back and buckle that seat belt, we are in for one wild ride!