The inclement weather that has plagued the south-central United States for the past week has prompted the cancellation of another weekend of racing at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Frigid temperatures and several inches of snow were expected to hit the area, so Oaklawn had little choice but to cancel the February 18-21 racing cards.
It's not Covid-19 this time
The track had originally scheduled the running of the $750,000 Southwest Stakes, a qualifying race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Prep Series, for Monday, February 15. Two other Grade 3 stakes races, the $250,000 Bayakoa and the $600,000 Razorback Handicap, had also been on the card for the Presidents' Day Weekend.
All three were originally postponed, with the Southwest moved to Saturday, February 20, and the other two taking place the following day. While the track has announced that the stakes races would be moved to the next week, they have yet to communicate a revised schedule. The last day of racing at the track was February 11.
The impact on the fields for the races, particularly the Southwest, is unclear, as the delay may disrupt how owners and trainers had planned on accumulating Derby qualifying points. The Southwest, which awards points on a 10-4-2-1 scale, is expected to be a showdown between Essential Quality and Keepmeinmind.
Will the field be intact?
Essential Quality is in second place on the Road to the Kentucky Derby points list with 30, behind Mandaloun, who's on 52. With the win at the Risen Star Stakes on February 13, Mandaloun all but guaranteed a spot in the Kentucky Derby. He'll most likely race again before the start of the Triple Crown Series, but now his handlers have more flexibility regarding when and where.
With a win at the Southwest, Essential Quality would have 40 points, which in most years has been enough to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. However, it's far too early to rest a horse until the first weekend in May.
Keepmeinmind was originally entered in the Risen Star but scratched on race day in favor of the Southwest. With 18 points, he needs at least two more attempts to garner enough points, but with the Grade 1 races awarding on a 100-40-20-10 scale, that opportunity is certainly available. Since the horse was already scratched from one race qualifying in favor of another, the possibility of it happening again has to be considered
Upcoming Championship Series schedule
The postponement of the Southwest, most likely to February 27, puts it on the same day as the $400,000 Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The race awards points on a 50-20-10-5 scale and could be a landing spot for Keepmeinmind and even Essential Quality if they are looking for alternatives to the Southwest.
The following week, on March 6, is the busiest day on the Championship Series calendar, with three races on the schedule. All are run at 1 1/16 miles and offer points at 50-20-10-5. They are the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs, The Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, and the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita.