Southwest S. (G3) — Race 9 (5:22 p.m. ET)
Saturday’s $750,000 Southwest S. (G3) at Oaklawn Park has attracted a field of 12, but most of the attention will be focused on the undefeated pair of Dash Attack and Newgrange.
Among a deep bench of Kentucky Derby (G1) contenders trained by Kenny McPeek, Dash Attack has already won twice at the Oaklawn meet, both over a mile. After posting a 10-1 upset in his debut in early December, the son of Munnings rallied through the slop to win the Smarty Jones S. on New Year’s Day by a widening two lengths as a 7-1 chance.
Newgrange invades from California, where he captured his debut at Del Mar in November and the Sham (G3) at Santa Anita on New Year’s Day, the latter after setting an unpressured pace.
Dash Attack is eligible for the Kentucky Derby (G1) qualifying points on offer in the 1 1/16-mile Southwest, but Newgrange is not as he’s trained by Bob Baffert, who is currently suspended from participating in all races at Churchill Downs. Points of 10-4-2-1 will go to the respective top four finishers.
The first four horses who followed Dash Attack across the Smarty Jones finish line — Barber Road, Ignitis, Kavod, and Vivar — are back for the Southwest. Also returning is Ben Diesel, who partially set the hot pace that ultimately resulted in his seventh-place finish.
Osborne, a half-length second in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park last month, looks a solid fit in relation to the top two contenders, while Costa Terra, a son of Gun Runner, has room to improve after a slow start proved costly in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) when last seen in October.
Martha Washington S. — Race 4 (2:32 p.m. ET)
Optionality, who dominated in her final three starts as a juvenile, heads a small field of six in the $200,000 Martha Washington S., a 1 1/16-mile fixture for three-year-old fillies which offers qualifying points toward the Kentucky Oaks (G1).
After placing in her first three starts at Indiana Grand, Optionality has won three in a row by a combined margin of 21 1/2 lengths. Following her graduation at Indiana, the Steve Asmussen-trained daughter of Gun Runner won for fun in the six-furlong Zia Park Princess and in the one-mile Trapeze S. at Remington Park.
The main threats to Optionality include Secret Oak, who won a Dec. 31 allowance prep by more than eight lengths for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Fourth in that allowance was returning rival Hypersport, while Como Square enters unbeaten in two starts for Brad Cox.
The Martha Washington offers Oaks qualifying points of 10-4-2-1 to the respective top four finishers.
King Cotton S. — Race 10 (5:55 p.m. ET)
The stakes-winning Nashville, shockingly upset by Hollis in his Dec. 10 allowance comeback off a layoff of nearly a year, renews rivalry with that foe in the $150,000 King Cotton S. over six furlongs.
The 1-5 favorite in that 5 1/2-furong dash, Nashville set a hot pace but was outrun through the stretch by Hollis, who posted a 4 1/2-length win under Nashville’s former regular rider Ricardo Santana.
Also lining up are 2021 King Cotton winner Boldor and Grade 1 veteran Collusion Illusion.