02/16/2013 4:21PM

Oaklawn: Baffert prominent in Southwest again with Super Ninety Nine

Barbara D. Livingston
Super Ninety Nine, based in California with trainer Bob Baffert, is the likely favorite among 10 3-year-olds in Monday's Southwest Stakes.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Oaklawn Park’s road to the Arkansas Derby gets serious on Monday with the running of the Grade 3, $300,000 Southwest. Super Ninety Nine has invaded from Southern California for trainer Bob Baffert to lead the 10-horse field. Will Take Charge, Texas Bling and Always in a Tiz are back for a rematch after being separated by a neck in last month’s $150,000 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn. And then there’s Big Lute, who is making his two-turn debut after winning the first race of his career with a Beyer Speed Figure of 89.

The Southwest is the final 10-point race on the new Kentucky Derby system governing preference into the race if it is oversubscribed. Next weekend, the preps jump to 50 points in value to the winner, with the running of the Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream and the Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star at Fair Grounds.

Super Ninety Nine should start as the favorite in the Southwest, which this year has been lengthened from a mile to 1 1/16 miles. He is part of a deep cast of 3-year-olds Baffert is wielding in pursuit of his fourth Kentucky Derby. Super Ninety Nine won his two-turn debut in dominant fashion at Santa Anita in his most recent out Jan. 31, and will attempt to give Baffert, who swept Oaklawn’s graded series for 3-year-olds in 2012, his fourth win in the Southwest. Super Ninety Nine will break from post 6 and is to be ridden by Rafael Bejarano.

“He ran an incredible race,” Baffert said of the 1:35 mile at Santa Anita. “Bejarano always thought he needed more ground. If you looked at him, he’s built like a sprinter. He’s a big, heavy horse. We stretched him out, and he ran a really fast race. If he can duplicate that race . . . it got a 100 Beyer.”

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

The number is the best career Beyer among the Southwest starters. Earlier in his career, Super Ninety Nine, who has won 2 of 4 starts, was second in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue.

Will Take Charge will be defending his home turf after winning the Smarty Jones by a neck over Texas Bling. It was another head back in third to Always in a Tiz in the one-mile race, which ended at the sixteenth pole. Will Take Charge overcame a demanding trip, as he was forced six wide into the first turn, raced three wide around the final turn, and then was locked in a stretch battle with Texas Bling.

“That was a horrendous trip for that horse,” trainer D. Wayne Lukas, a four-time winner of the Kentucky Derby, said of Will Take Charge. “I felt like we escaped, with the trip and everything. To get the win anyhow was significant. We beat a quality field, in my opinion. I think some of those horses are going to show up and be okay. We didn’t beat ‘em far, but we still got up and won when we could have hung right there at the eighth pole.”

Jon Court has the mount on Will Take Charge.

Texas Bling won the $300,000 Springboard Mile over Will Take Charge in December, closing from eighth. In the Smarty Jones, he raced with the pace and put up a fight along the rail under Cliff Berry, who has the mount again Monday.

“It was definitely a horse race,” said trainer Danele Durham.

“[Texas Bling] showed versatility. We had to change his racing style to accommodate the finish line, where it was. I asked Cliff to move forward a little quicker than usual.

“I think [Texas Bling] will appreciate the added stretch.”

The Southwest’s ending at the second wire is also welcome news for Always in a Tiz, who was the favorite in the Smarty Jones.

“That actually benefits us,” said his trainer, Dominick Schettino. “The further the better for him.”

Always in a Tiz came rolling in the Smarty Jones after a less-than-ideal rail trip.

“Hopefully, he breaks better than last time and gets better position,” said Schettino. “And preferably, he’s not stuck down on the inside.”

Big Lute won a maiden special weight at Oaklawn in his career debut Feb. 1, covering six furlongs in a sharp 1:10.40. He has since worked a bullet half-mile in 47 seconds in-preparation for his two-turn test in the Southwest.

“I sure have no reason to feel that he can’t do it, [but] everything always remains to be proven,” said trainer Steve Hobby. “He’s so good-minded, I think he’ll do whatever the rider asks him. At least that’s been the case so far.”

Brown Almighty and Officer Alex are both stakes winners who exit the Smarty Jones with legitimate excuses. Brown Almighty finished fifth and afterward was found to have had a severe lung infection, according to trainer Tim Ice. Officer Alex was sixth after breaking last, getting hung wide, then losing a front shoe, according to his Kentucky Derby-winning trainer, Lynn Whiting.

“He made a move the other day and it looked like he was going to be right there,” Whiting said. “His move was short lived, and I think he just had too many complications along the way.”

Rosie Napravnik will be riding at Oaklawn for the first time Monday. She’s here with Fear the Kitten, who rallied for third to wire-to-wire winner Oxbow in last month’s Grade 3 Lecomte at Fair Grounds. Fear the Kitten should benefit from the surprise entrant of the front-running Heaven’s Runway, who pressed Goldencents in the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot.

“He will rely heavily on the pace scenario,” trainer Mike Maker said of Fear the Kitten.

The Southwest goes as the ninth on a 10-race card, with a post of 5:09 p.m. Central.


Robynrokn More than 1 year ago
Oh and how does morning line get the TxBling at 12 but Tiz at 4 when they all finished within a neck?
Robynrokn More than 1 year ago
What DRF, no "arrangement" with Oaklawn for the SW to be the race of day and some video? But SA and an ordinary turf race rates race of the day? That one's for the TVG crew. Not even a video preview of this one? Why cover the derby preps at all?
Richard Catalano More than 1 year ago
i think it stinks you cant bet the race on drf bets thank you nyra rewards
Jordan Sickman More than 1 year ago
Big Lute's sire, Midnight Lute, produced the winner in yesterday's San Vicente. Take what could be the last "big" price you'll get on this horse.
Keith More than 1 year ago
Do not overlook the #1 Alex's Officer (PA) here, expecially on a wet track. The damsire here, Boco Rio was a seet running Mr. "P", out of a Native Dancer mare who had run some pretty good races in her own right. The sire, Officer gets good runners at this distance, and the mare here was a quick sort who was a very uselful Allowance-Claiming class runner sprinting. He's in a good post with that 1st turn, has handled an off track before, put up a 102 Beyer, and in Stakes company. Quinoinz is a crafty jouneyman jockey, and the 20-1 ML gives him some real flavor....as in tasty. Ignore what looke to be a bounce in his last out, and uncharacteristically, he got away slow in that one. He should be though of as one who should hit the board. Keith L. Keith L.
Rob Tuel More than 1 year ago
Have liked Will Take Charge since his debut at Saratoga.....future ticket at 62-1.....Give him a good trip Jon Court, and let's see what the horse can do!!!
jttf More than 1 year ago
could be sloppy. t-storms likely.
Flint King More than 1 year ago
Always a tiz-supper 99 exacta box
Rick Lamond More than 1 year ago
Big Lute has room for significant improvement off a better-than-looked debut win. If he does move forward off of what looked like a tightener, he could be the only horse in the field with a chance to beat Super Ninety Nine.
matthew_melton More than 1 year ago
better than looked? I'm not sure who was critiquing it negatively, but it look pretty darn spectacular to me.. 99 Bris Fig
Kelly Cumpian More than 1 year ago
Come on TEXAS BLING....do your thing!!!!!!!
roelly19 More than 1 year ago
i agree!!!!!!!!!!!!! love this colt.