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The horses round the final turn in the Southwest Stakes
The traditional feature at Oaklawn Park on Presidents' Day Monday is the $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3), a major prep for the Arkansas Derby (G1) as well as a points-scoring race in the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The 25,622 fans enjoyed sunny skies and temperatures in the 70's.
A field of 12 three-year-olds (11 betting interests) contested this 1 1/16 mile trip around the historic Hot Springs oval, with last year's Hopeful (G1) winner Strong Mandate sent off as the even-money favorite, unraced since third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1). In to challenge him included 11-2 second choice Tapiture, winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), and the 2-horse entry of Smarty Jones winner Tanzanite Cat and debut winner Paganol at 8-1.
Tanzanite Cat, Tapiture, and Coastline battled for the early lead through fractions of 23.45, 47.92, and 1:13.06 over the fast track, while stalked by Strong Mandate. Entering the stretch, Tapiture pulled away from the field, getting the mile in 1:38.59, and drawing away to win by 4 1/4 lengths over Strong Mandate in 1:44.95. It was another 6 lengths back to 17-2 fourth choice Ride On Curlin third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 2 Tapiture Santana 13.00 4.80 3.20 7 Strong Mandate Rosario 3.40 2.60 8 Ride On Curlin Borel 3.80 Winning Time: 1:44.84 $2 Exacta 2-7 31.40 $1 Trifecta 2-7-8 85.40 $1 Superfecta 2-7-8-3 531.00
Winning trainer Steve Asmussen said, "It was a big step forward for him. I was impressed with what he did. I saw some things we need to improve and he'll have to continue to improve with the races coming up. I think the series sets up really well for him." Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. added, "This horse was working really nice. I was so excited for this race. When we got to the straight, he showed all his class. He was really nice and was really relaxed today."
D. Wayne Lukas, trainer of runner-up and beaten favorite Strong Mandate said, "He ran well. He didn't have the cleanest of trips. We had wanted to be more forwardly placed, but he got bumped leaving the gate and was actually wide the whole trip. The winner ran exceptional. We'll just go back to the barn and look at the Rebel Stakes."
Winning trainer and co-owner Phil Sims said, "She's an awful nice mare. It's tough to win two races in a row. I appreciate all the support we got from the fans." Jockey Channing Hill added, "That was fun. She always gives you a lot of confidence. She picked it right up at the 1/2-mile pole and did it all on her own."
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