02/14/2009 1:00AM

Old Fashioned fit for 3-year-old debut

Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Old Fashioned loosens up under trainer Larry Jones at Oaklawn on Saturday morning.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - A win by Old Fashioned on Monday in the Grade 3, $250,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park would solidify his reputation as the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby. For the other 10 horses in the field, a win would put them on the radar.

The Southwest, a one-mile race for 3-year-olds that will end at the sixteenth pole, is a stepping-stone to the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 11. Others set to start include the up-and-coming Silver City.

Old Fashioned was an Eclipse Award finalist last year at 2, when he won all three of his starts, including the Grade 2 Remsen in runaway fashion at Aqueduct in his season finale Nov. 29. On Monday, he begins his 3-year-old campaign, and from all indications he is poised for a big spring.

"He's not had a hiccup at all, and that might not be any good. Maybe we should have used up our hiccups," quipped Larry Jones, who trains Old Fashioned for Rick Porter. "But, it's just been perfect. Everything has been right on schedule."

Old Fashioned has had two bullet works at Oaklawn since arriving from Fair Grounds for the Southwest, his first start since his 7 1/4-length win in the Remsen. He has made a nice transition from 2 to 3, said Jones.

"He's maturing at a nice rate," he said. "He's really settling in and kind of now mentally acting like what good horses are supposed to act like. He's getting more focused and more on a business level."

Old Fashioned overcame adversity to win his career debut Oct. 6 at Delaware Park, then rolled to a 15-length allowance score at that track in his first two-turn race Nov. 3.

"The beauty part about him is it doesn't seem like he's got to have anything just strictly his way," Jones said. "In his first race he was a little slow leaving the gate in that six-furlong race and he kept running them down, coming from way back. The second race, he just sat right outside a horse and when it came time to go, he went on. And the last race, he drew the outside and went right to the front and went on. He's very manageable."

Old Fashioned, who will break from post 5 under Ramon Dominguez, could get a beautiful tracking trip sitting just off of Silver City. Silver City will be making his two-turn debut from post 3 after winning the $50,000 Dixieland at 5 1/2 furlongs with supreme ease here Jan. 16. On Monday, the Southwest could play to his strength as a horse with exceptional speed.

"I don't think you could ask for more, being a flat mile and the short wire," said Bret Calhoun, who trains Silver City for Clarence Scharbauer Jr. "I think it will give us a good chance for his first time going around two turns."

Miguel Mena has the mount on Silver City, who tracked the pace in the Dixieland but could set the fractions on the stretchout Monday.

"There's going to be some other pace in the race, so I'm hoping that he'll relax," Calhoun said. "I would love to see him be able to throttle down to 23 [seconds] and change the first quarter.

"We'll be going a mile, so it will be a little different trying to throttle him down going mile fractions as opposed to five and a half, but I definitely think he's going the right way. He's starting to settle and relax a little better all the time."

If the fractions are hot, it would benefit Flat Out, the sweeping winner of the $50,000 Smarty Jones at a mile in his third career start here Jan. 19.

"He wasn't a real seasoned horse in that last race, but he did everything that he needed to do so I hope that taught him a lot," said Scooter Dickey, who trains Flat Out. "Just like that race, we'd like to sit and wait and be in front when they get to the wire."

Poltergeist will get respect following a six-length allowance win Jan. 17 that was something of a breakout race for the colt trained by Donnie Von Hemel .

"He showed that he could run from the beginning, he just maybe had a few circumstances last year that kept him from showing everything he could do," he said. "But I do think from when he ran in December of last year to now he's definitely a better horse. It seems when he's running or working, he's a little more focused on what he's supposed to be doing."

Others in the field include two-time route stakes winner Kick On, as well as Retap and Gresham, who were a respective second and third last fall in the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Juvenile.