02/17/2009 1:00AM

Old Fashioned backs up his status

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Coady Photography
Old Fashioned (5) breaks from the gate under Ramon Dominguez in Monday's Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park, on his way to a powerful 3 1/4-length victory that solidified his status as the early Kentucky Derby favorite.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - As if on cue, a day after Old Fashioned was made the individual favorite in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, he reaffirmed his status atop the division when he proved a commanding winner of Monday's Grade 3, $250,000 Southwest Stakes in his 3-year-old debut at Oaklawn Park. The race was his first since his 7 1/4-length rout of the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct on Nov. 29. He earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure for his performance in the Southwest.

"It was a really good first-out effort," Larry Jones, who trains Old Fashioned for Rick Porter, said Tuesday. "The main thing was he looked like he won it without getting himself knocked out. I was afraid this race would be so big that it would knock him out, being his first race back, but I see no reason why he can't improve right off of this. So, all is well. We're very happy."

Jones said plans are to keep Old Fashioned at Oaklawn for the Grade 2, $300,000 Rebel at 1 1/16 miles on March 14.

In the Southwest, Old Fashioned stalked Silver City through a 22.47-second opening quarter and a 45.98- half-mile, engaged the leader approaching the quarter pole, and then went on to cover the mile in 1:37.41 while winning by 3 1/4 lengths.

"They were very quick fractions, and he would have had every reason in the world to have backed down," Jones said of Old Fashioned. "And they were starting to slow it down, don't get me wrong. But he did gallop out well and nobody was making a close on him. I thought it was a very good race."

The Rebel is the final local prep for the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 11. Old Fashioned's win in the Southwest came a weekend after his stablemate, Friesan Fire, won the Grade 3 Risen Star at Fair Grounds, giving Jones the favorites on both the Louisiana and Arkansas roads to the Kentucky Derby.

Silver City considers Rebel, La. Derby

Silver City, who finished second in the Southwest, will make his next start in either the Rebel or the Grade 2, $600,000 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on March 14, trainer Bret Calhoun said.

"He came back super and looks good, but I don't know where we'll run yet," Calhoun said Tuesday.

Calhoun said Silver City was to ship back to his Fair Grounds base on Wednesday morning. The horse made his two-turn debut in the Southwest following an impressive win in the $50,000 Dixieland at 5 1/2 furlongs here Jan. 16.

"Being his first two-turn race, I think he'll learn off of that race and move forward off of it," Calhoun said.

'Rachel' considering Fair Grounds Oaks

The connections of Rachel Alexandra, who dominated the $50,000 Martha Washington here Sunday, are leaning toward running her next in the Grade 2, $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks on March 14. The other option is the Grade 3, $100,000 Honeybee at Oaklawn on March 15.

"We're probably looking pretty strong at the race in New Orleans," said Hal Wiggins, who trains Rachel Alexandra for L and M Partners. "By the weekend, we'll be definite in our decision."

Rachel Alexandra ran the fastest mile of the meet in the Martha Washington, when she covered the distance in 1:36.40, a second faster than Old Fashioned ran the next day. For her effort, Rachel Alexandra equaled her career-best Beyer, a 99.

"I was initially impressed with her race, and after seeing what the colts did, it made me more impressed with her performance," Wiggins said.

The Martha Washington was Rachel Alexandra's first start since her Nov. 29 win in the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill. In that race, she ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.08, more than a second quicker than the 1:44.14 that 2-year-old colts were timed in two races later in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club.