by Dick Powell
Well, I don’t think we saw the winner of the 2019 Kentucky Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3). Not to knock the 62-1 winner Super Steed or some of the others that ran well, but there was nothing about this race that drew me to the edge of my seat and thought that these were an elite group of sophomores that could be prominent on the first Saturday of May.
A field of 11 loaded into the gate without incident but then things began to happen. Ricardo Santana Jr. gunned Jersey Agenda to the front from post 5. He was quickly joined on the inside by Shaun Bridgmohan aboard Smarty Jones Stakes winner Gray Attempt. They hurtled into the clubhouse turn and it looked like Santana came over just enough to turn Gray Attempt sideways. They bounced off each other and Jersey Agenda wound up losing stride while being carried out. Gray Attempt recovered but the two of them lost all chance in the first furlong. Both were keyed up and were flat out way too early.
Behind them going into the clubhouse turn, Boldor came over and impeded Ninth Street and 2-1 favorite Cutting Humor. Ninth Street forced Cutting Humor out and the favorite moved into Super Steed’s path, who had to steady a bit. The race was now chaotic and there were horses all over the track. Gray Attempt continued to battle with Jersey Agenda, Sueno was caught in between horses, and Cutting Humor was hung out four wide.
The foursome raced around the far turn but suddenly, Terry Thompson had Super Steed in a drive on the far outside. The Larry Jones trainee swooped to the lead and with the front runners backing up, suddenly turned for home with a three-length lead. The only live challenge was Sueno but the race was over. Super Steed was home free and took the winner’s share of 10 Derby points.
Runner-up Sueno earned 4 points, doubling his tally to 8. Long Range Toddy, who Richard Eramia adeptly moved him to a ground-saving position from post 10 to avoid all the bumping, squeezed through on the rail in the stretch to get third. That gave Long Range Toddy 2 more points to increase his total to 16. Six Shooter got another point for fourth and now has 2. Gray Attempt retreated to last.
Super Steed was no match for Gray Attempt in his last two starts but the Southwest fell into his lap. The son of Super Saver, the 2010 Kentucky Derby winner who prepped with a second in the Arkansas Derby (G2), took 1:44.05 to cover the distance over an Oaklawn track that was slow all day. Maybe it was the cold temperatures, but maybe it was an average group of horses.
The favorite, Cutting Humor, only had a maiden win to his credit and still can’t get away from the gate cleanly. I can’t see Gray Attempt and Jersey Agenda bouncing back very quickly off such a rough race. Sueno is a nice horse and Keith Desormeaux tends to race his horses into shape so he might be a factor in the Rebel Stakes (G2) in four weeks.