One Liner entered Monday’s $500,000 Southwest (G3) a relative unknown with something to prove, but walked away a potential star after a convincing victory in the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Derby (G1) prep at Oaklawn.
Making his stakes debut and his first start around two turns, the son of Into Mischief took advantage of a strong pace set by 11-10 favorite Uncontested, who lead uncontested through splits of :22.93, :46.55, and 1:10.98. Those fractions were faster than what star older horse Gun Runner had set about an hour before in the Razorback H. (G3).
One Liner, the 3-1 second choice, broke well and settled nicely in fourth for jockey John Velazquez, who had the colt no more than three lengths behind the favorite.
“The instructions were actually pretty basic, just come out running,” Velazquez said. “We knew he would come out running with this being his first time around two turns. I just wanted to save something for the end and I didn’t want to rush him. He broke real well and once he got round the first turn he relaxed for me.”
Turning for home, Uncontested gave in to pressure from Petrov, who had finished a distant second to that rival in last month’s Smarty Jones. Petrov opened up a one-length lead in mid-stretch, but proved no match for One Liner, who powered home to win handsomely by 3 1/2 lengths in a time of 1:41.85 over a fast track.
“By the time we got to the three-eighths pole I had to get aggressive with him and let him know it was time to get busy. Then he got aggressive and then he got competitive. From there, I knew he had it won,” Velazquez said.
Owned by the partnership of WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, and SF Racing, One Liner paid $8.80. He’s based at Palm Beach Downs in Florida with trainer Todd Pletcher.
Petrov finished second, 8 1/4 lengths ahead of Lookin At Lee, with Silver Dust a half-length farther back in fourth. Uncontested weakened to sixth in the field of 12.
As part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, the Southwest awarded Derby qualifying points of 10-4-2-1 to the first four finishers. Next Saturday’s Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds is the first of the domestic preps that award 50 points to the winner.
One Liner, who has now earned $373,800, successfully captured his first two starts, the first being a 5 1/2-furlong maiden at Saratoga last July by 1 1/2 lengths. Not seen again until January 26, One Liner proved best in a six-furlong allowance at Gulfstream by 2 1/2 lengths. He started as the favorite both times.
“We had to give him some time after that race because of some baby issues, but he came back very good and has been training good, so we were confident in him,” Pletcher said. “At this point I’d say everything is in play (for next race). We’ll discuss it with the connections. We still have time for two more races if that’s the path he continues on.”
Bred in Kentucky by Kingswood Farm, One Liner was a $150,000 Keeneland January yearling buy. He was produced by the Cherokee Run mare Cayala, a half-sister to the Grade 2-placed Goldrush Girl. Also hailing from this family are Grade 1 winners Albertus Maximus, Race the Wild Wind, and Here Comes Ben, as well as French highweight King Charlemagne.