Two Kentucky Derby prep races are garnering most of the attention in the horse racing world ahead of the upcoming weekend.
Usually, a 10-4-2-1 points race this late in the season wouldn't be worthy of much hype, but the twice-postponed Southwest Stakes will sport a stellar field at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Meanwhile, at Gulfstream Park, the $300,000 Fountain of Youth is shaping up as a Holy Bull rematch in the second 50-20-10-5 race of the Championship Series. The winner will also gain enough points to virtually guarantee entry into the Kentucky Derby. The 1 1/16-mile contest will most likely serve as a preview for the March 27 Florida Derby.
It's about time
The $750,000 Southwest was originally scheduled for February 15, but inclement weather first forced a change to February 20 and ultimately to February 27.
What the race lacks in points, it more than makes up for with the cash purse. The money has attracted a first-class field led by Essential Quality, who is in everyone's top three Kentucky Derby prospects. The Brad Cox-trained colt is undefeated in three starts but is still looking for his first race of 2021.
Essential Quality last ran at the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on November 6 and is second in the Road to the Kentucky Derby point standings with 30. A win and the 10 points that come with it would put him very close to clinching an invitation to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
Also expected to race is Jackie's Warrior, whose last race was also the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, where he finished a disappointing fourth. It was the first loss for the Steve Asmussen-trained colt after four wins, including three consecutive stakes victories.
Keepmeinmind finally got a win in his last start at the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs on November 28. He was scratched from the Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans on February 13 in favor of the Southwest.
Same horses, different race
The betting favorite at the Fountain of Youth will be Greatest Honour, the winner of the Holy Bull Stakes on January 30. The Claude McGaughey III-trained colt got off to a slow start, finishing third in his first two career races. After moving up for a runner-up finish in his third race, he finally broke through for a win in his final maiden race before breaking through with the stakes win in the Holy Bull.
Fire at Will is expected to return to race on the dirt after three turf wins, including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf in his last start on November 6. An impressive performance in the Fountain of Youth could move him up the futures odds list for the Derby, where he now sits at 30/1.
After much speculation, it's reported that Drain the Clock will race in the Fountain of Youth. With four wins, the latest coming in the Claiborne Farm Swale Stakes on January 30, Drain the Clock is looking to put some qualifying points on the board.