02/16/2008 1:00AM

Cast from all over for Southwest


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Being awarded Grade 3 status has given the $250,000 Southwest Stakes for 3-year-olds at Oaklawn Park on Monday a new look. In the past, the race tended to be dominated by locals. But this year, nine of the 11 starters in the one-mile stakes are shipping into Hot Springs.

Turf War, Riley Tucker, Silver Edition and He's Eze have invaded from Florida. Sierra Sunset is in from Northern California, and Denis of Cork and Liberty Bull head the contingent from Louisiana.

All are here for what is Oaklawn's first major prep for the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 12.

Turf War won a $1 million race in his last start, when he dead-heated with Z Humor in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs on Dec. 7. He broke slowly in that 1 1/16-mile race, run on a six-furlong track, and closed from some 15 lengths back.

"He started making a big run, and he got fanned out very wide, and it amazed me that he was able to get up," said Mark Casse, who trains Turf War.

Calvin Borel has the return call, while Kent Desormeaux will be aboard leading contender Riley Tucker, the runner-up to future Grade 1 winner Wicked Style in the Grade 3 Arlington -Washington Futurity in his last start Sept. 1. Riley Tucker will be making his two-turn debut Monday.

"My gut feeling is he's a natural," trainer Bill Mott said of the route assignment for Riley Tucker. "But with that being said, they've got to prove it. I'm optimistic."

Silver Edition stretches out, too, off two races at Gulfstream. He finished fourth in the Grade 2 Swale on Feb. 2, and second in the Grade 2 Hutcheson on Jan. 5. He will break from the rail under Joe Bravo.

"He'll be close up," said Wayne Lukas, who trains Silver Edition. "He's got some speed. He was second in the Hutcheson in blistering fractions, and he was in the hunt in the Swale on very fast fractions."

The undefeated Denis of Cork will be a stretch threat. In his last start, he won a first-level allowance at Fair Grounds on Jan. 19.

"Ideally, he's a horse that would love to have some pace, where he can sit back there and make that one run," said David Carroll, who trains Denis of Cork and has given the mount to Robby Albarado.