Derby Contenders Clash on Saturday: Southwest Stakes Preview

The 2021 Southwest Stakes will be Race 10 on February 26th at Oaklawn Park. Post time is set for 4:58 PM CT. This Grade III Race is one and 1/16 miles and has a purse of $750,000. The race is for horses three-years olds and will give us an early look at some 2021 Kentucky Derby contenders. There are seven horses in the field this year. Last year’s winner was Silver Prospector. Let’s take a look at the rankings for everyone in this year’s field.

Essential Quality is the 3/2 morning line favorite and is likely the current favorite for the 2021 Kentucky Derby. He’s 3-0 in his career, including two Grade I wins in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity and the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile. He’s the horse to beat right now, but it’s also important to remember his connections have their sights set further along in the year and aren’t training him to peak right now.

Jackie’s Warrior is the the other heavy favorite. He’s also in the mix of derby contenders. He’s a sprinter and the question is at a mile and 1/16, will anyone else be able to catch him? He also has two Grade 1 wins as well as a Grade 2 win. He started his career 4-0 before a fourth place finish in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile last November.

Woodhouse is a longer shot that shows up third on the list, but he hasn’t faced anything like the competition of those top two horses. He’s won his only two races and did post a speed figure in his last similar to those top horses. This will be his first stakes race.

Spielberg is lower on my rankings, but he’s probably the third best horse here. He’s already raced seven times including two Grade I’s, a Grade II and two Grade III’s. Experience is on his side and although he only won one of those races, he’s never finished worse than 4th. He’s trained by Bob Baffert too so you know he’ll get some action from bettors as well.

Saffa’s Day broke his maiden last time out, but hasn’t faced this sort of competition and would need to take a huge leap forward here.

Santa Cruiser is a talented horse, but has really struggled in each of his last two. Just not in great form right now.

Let’s take a look at each horse’s speed figures over their last three starts.

I have run the 2020 Southwest Stakes 1,000 times in simulations. Below are the results of those races.

Essential Quality and Jackie’s Warrior are definitely the two most likely to win here. But if those two are going to get bet down, it may be best to look elsewhere for betting or just sit it out altogether.

Quick Wrap Up and Betting Strategies

Most Likely to Win: 1 Essential Quality/ 4 Jackie’s Warrior

My Bet: 1/4-1/4-7 Trifecta

Superfecta: 1/4-1/4-6/7-6/7

I’m exciting to watch this race, especially Joel Rosario rides Jackie’s Warrior and how Essential Quality responds if Jackie’s Warrior really pushes the pace. From a betting standpoint, it may be better to take a longer shot if those two are bet down, especially considering those two are really training to be peaking later on as the Kentucky Derby nears.

Essential Quality wins last year’s Breeder’s Cup Juvenile

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