02/14/2011 11:32AM

J P’s Gusto, Elite Alex work at Oaklawn for Southwest

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Elite Alex was scratched from last weekend's Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn in favor of Saturday's Louisiana Derby.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – J P’s Gusto geared up for a start in the Grade 3, $250,000 Southwest at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 21, when he breezed six furlongs in hand in 1:15.60 on Monday morning. It was his first local work since arriving in town Wednesday. He went just after 7 a.m. Central.

J P’s Gusto had been based in Southern California with trainer David Hofmans, but last week he was transferred to the care of Oaklawn-based trainer Joe Petalino. A Grade 1 winner of more than $500,000, he is a long-term candidate for the Arkansas Derby on April 16.

J P’s Gusto worked by himself, and clockers caught him coming home his last quarter in 24.40 seconds. Jockey Bryan McNeil was aboard for the move, while Ramon Dominguez will come in to ride the horse in the Southwest.

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Petalino said J P’s Gusto got over Oaklawn’s track well Monday.

“I think he handled the surface very well,” he said. “I think he handled it good. We didn’t ask him to do much.”

J P's Gusto's work was the third fastest of 12 at the distance Monday, with Archarcharch, another candidate for the Southwest, going six furlongs in a bullet 1:15.

The one-mile race will be J P’s Gusto’s first start since Dec. 18, when he ran second in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park. Last year, the horse won four stakes, including the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity, the Grade 2 Best Pal, and the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship.

Elite Alex, who also is a candidate for the Southwest, worked from the gate Monday morning, breezing seven furlongs in company in 1:27. Jockey Calvin Borel was aboard for the move, which came after the renovation break, about 9:15 a.m.

Elite Alex broke from the gate in a set of three and sat about 1 1/2 lengths off of his company as clockers carried him through the opening three furlongs in 36.60. Elite Alex moved to his workmates midway on the turn for home, came through on the rail heading into the stretch, and finished well clear of his company while working past the wire to the seven-eighths pole. Clockers carried Elite Alex through a half-mile in 49.40 and five furlongs in 1:01.80.

Tim Ritchey, who trains Elite Alex, said the horse remains on schedule for the Southwest following his strong work Monday.

"It was pretty impressive," he said of the drill. "He did everything we wanted him to do."

Elite Alex was the lone horse to work seven furlongs Monday.

Borel was headed to Dubai after the work to represent the United States in the Meydan Masters jockey competition on Thursday and Friday. He will be back for the Southwest.

Caleb’s Posse, winner of the $100,000 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn on Jan. 17, also was in action Monday morning, breezing five furlongs in an easy 1:03.40.

Other probables for the Southwest that worked Monday included Alternation, who went five furlongs in company in 1:01.80, and Bluegrass Bull, who went six furlongs in 1:17.20.

It was sunny and in the mid 40s on Monday morning, with the track listed as fast at Oaklawn.