Champagne's Picks: Southwest Stakes

Racing expert Andrew Champagne is back with his picks for Monday's Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park
Andrew Champagne
Mon, February 17, 9:10 AM EST

Oaklawn Park - Southwest Stakes

2 units: Exacta key box, 8 w/3,4,9

2 units: Win, 8

Everyone’s favorite variable comes into play Monday at Oaklawn Park. 3-year-olds go for Kentucky Derby points in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes, but the track condition is very much up in the air, as there’s a 40% chance of rain in Arkansas as of this writing.

This is pretty annoying, as several top contenders have earned that status thanks to races contested on muddy tracks and haven’t shown that form on drier surfaces. I’m going forward on the assumption that it’ll be dry Monday. If it is, I think it’s a far better betting race, and plus, I’d like to consider myself an optimist. Let’s get to it!

A Confusing Morning Line (and a 5-1 Top Pick)

I hate bashing morning line makers, because their job is thankless and nobody ever seems to praise them when they get things right. However, I can’t have too much confidence in a morning line where the 3-1 favorite ran second last time out to a rival that’s an 8-1 shot, and where the winner of two straight stakes races (including a local prep) is the 6-1 fifth choice in a field of nine. We’ll get to the latter runner in a moment.

For now, my top choice is 5-1, and I hope we get that price come post time. #8 TAISHAN exits the Grade 3 Sham at Santa Anita, where he was fourth behind the promising Authentic. That race’s runner-up came back to win Saturday’s El Camino Real Derby, so the form’s been franked a bit, and Taishan has a series of strong five-furlong drills leading up to his trip east. I think he’ll be closer to the pace in this spot, and that sort of trip should suit him.

On a Hot Streak

#4 GOLD STREET moves way up on an off track. He’s won three in a row, all on wet surfaces, and that stretch includes a pair of stakes races. Most recently, the Steve Asmussen trainee wired the field in the Smarty Jones here at Oaklawn and earned a 95 Beyer Speed Figure. If he can replicate that on a fast track, there’s an argument to be made that he’s one of the best 3-year-olds in training right now.

That, though, is a definite question mark. Gold Street is 0-for-3 on fast tracks and 3-for-3 on wet ones. If the weather holds up, I think his likely price far short of the 6-1 morning line is a bit of an underlay (though I’ll still use him underneath). However, if rain falls, he’s strictly the one to beat.

The Springboard Duo

Morning line favorite #9 ANSWER IN has been working well here, but I can’t help but feel like he’s best around one turn. He had every right to win the Springboard Mile, but instead lost a photo to #3 SHOPLIFTED. I’m using both underneath, but I prefer the latter runner on a fast track. There’s enough speed in here to set up for his late kick, and he could come running for a piece of it.

How I’ll Play It

Again, assuming this is contested on a fast track, I’m keying Taishan. He’s the main horse I’m using in exactas, and I’ll have win money on him as well.

2 units: Exacta key box, 8 w/3,4,9

2 units: Win, 8

By Andrew Champagne

Andrew Champagne
AndrewChampagne
Andrew Champagne is a horse racing handicapper with a specialism in juveniles. One thing is for certain, Champagne gets the party started.
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