March 24, 2023

Mourinho likely to get more pressure in deep Southwest

Bob Baffert's long string of success at Oaklawn continued with Mourinho's win in the Smarty Jones (Coady Photography)

Mourinho enjoyed a relatively easy trip on the front end when leading throughout in last month’s $147,000 Smarty Jones against four rivals. Things might not be as comfortable for the Bob Baffert trainee Monday when he heads a larger field in the $500,000 Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn Park.

The 1 1/16-mile Southwest is the final Kentucky Derby Prep Season race in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, awarding qualifying points of 10-4-2-1 to the top four finishers. Later in the Oaklawn meet, the Rebel (G2) will award 50 points to its winner and the Arkansas Derby (G1) 100 points.

Mourinho earned 10 points for his win in the one-mile Smarty Jones, a race where he was left unchallenged in setting a pace of :23.20, :48, and 1:12.20. The son of Super Saver, previously stakes-placed in a pair of sprints in Southern California, crossed the wire 3 1/4 lengths to the good of Combatant, who also placed in the $402,000 Springboard Mile at Remington Park in December.

The Southwest marks the seasonal return of Sporting Chance, who was sidelined following a narrow, erratic victory in the Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga for D. Wayne Lukas. The son of Tiznow is bred to go long, but could prove a tad short in his return following a 5 1/2-month layoff. His early foot, though, could prove a hindrance to Mourinho.

Another with early pace is Ezmosh, but the Brad Cox trainee drew the far outside post and figures to be a longshot following two unplaced efforts in stakes company and an allowance loss last time.

Fair Grounds-based Principe Guilherme was cross-entered to the Southwest in addition to Saturday’s Risen Star (G2), where he was expected to start no worse than second choice. After facile wins in his first two outings, the Steve Asmussen colt endured a wide trip in last month’s Lecomte (G3), where he finished a distant second as the 6-5 choice behind Instilled Regard.

In addition to Combatant and Principe Guilherme, Asmussen also entered Retirement Fund, who’s won both starts after setting moderate fractions, and the deep-closing Zing Zang, fourth in the Lecomte (G3) and a colt much in the mold of his 2016 Belmont S. (G1) winner Creator, who also captured the Arkansas Derby (G1) that season.

The deep Southwest field also includes Seven Trumpets, runner-up in the $150,000 Jerome at Aqueduct last month for Dale Romans; grass stakes winner My Boy Jack, a distant third in the Sham (G3) on dirt last time; Road to Damascus, a last-out Tampa Bay Downs graduate for Todd Pletcher; and Kentucky Club, who beat $30,000 maiden claimers over the Oaklawn strip last time for Lukas.

An already wet week in Hot Springs is expected to continue through most of the holiday weekend, though the temperatures are expected to climb into the low 70s by Monday with a 50 percent chance of rain. Post time for the Southwest is 6:10 p.m. (EST).