02/16/2016 8:44PM

Road to the Derby: Southwest Stakes

Coady Photography
Suddenbreakingnews comes from last place to win the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn.

Grade 3, $500,000 Southwest Stakes; 1 1/16 miles; Oaklawn Park; Feb. 15, 2016
(10 Derby qualifying points for a win, 4 for second, 2 for third, 1 for fourth)

Winner: Suddenbreakingnews, by Mineshaft

Trainer: Donnie Von Hemel

Jockey: Luis Quinonez

Owner: Samuel F. Henderson

Beyer Speed Figure: 93

Stop the presses! SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS took a significant leap forward in his first start at age 3 by running a career-best Beyer figure, 16 points better than his previous top, which was earned when second in the Springboard Mile at Remington in his final start at age 2.

As a son of a Horse of the Year out of a mare by a Preakness and Belmont winner (Afleet Alex), Suddenbreakingnews should benefit from the longer distances 3-year-olds are asked to negotiate in coming months. He has been remarkably consistent, now owning 3 wins and 3 seconds in 6 starts, and his powerful late runs sure are fun to watch.

But how much of his success on this day was due to the race shape? Both he and runner-up WHITMORE made extended runs from well back in a race whose first half-mile was run in a lively 47.06 seconds and second half-mile was run in 51.85 seconds. If the belief that race shape was critical, the third-place finish by AMERICAN DUBAI after stalking the pace – and in only his third start – stamps him as one to watch, too.

The Oaklawn series of preps continues to be a compelling path to the Derby, and is used by horses shipping in from all locales. Entrants for this race had made their last starts at Oaklawn, Santa Anita, Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Keeneland and – in the case of Suddenbreakingnews – Remington.

In the Southwest, Suddenbreakingnews had no early speed and trailed his 13 rivals into the first turn, had to angle out on the far turn to rally, came off the bend about six paths wide, then gobbled up ground with long, powerful strides to reel in Whitmore in deep stretch and win going away.

Whitmore, who was second, had an eventful trip. He hesitated just a touch when the gate opened, had to check coming past the finish the first time and got shuffled back to 11th while saving ground, had to check again with three furlongs to go and then was angled out for a clear run, flew past rivals on the far turn while about five paths wide while advancing to fourth, continued his relentless charge to challenge for the lead with a sixteenth to go, but was no match for the blur of Suddenbreakingnews late. He’s definitely worth following.

American Dubai, who was third, broke very sharply, conceded the lead to SIDING SPRING around the first turn and then eased outside him to take up a stalking position, moved with three furlongs out to be lapped on Siding Spring, took the lead shortly after entering the lane, was a bit late to swap leads, initially withstood a challenge from Whitmore, then tired just enough in the closing yards to lose the place. Considering the race shape and that this was only his third start, he ran huge.

COLLECTED, who was fourth, kind of stutter-stepped leaving the gate and thus needed to be hustled from his inside draw to hold position, rated just behind American Dubai around the first turn, continued to save ground just behind the leaders down the backstretch, had clear room a quarter-mile out to make a run at the leaders, but just went evenly through the stretch. I opined after his win in the Sham that I thought he was a cut below the division’s elite, and he did nothing here to alter that position.

Siding Spring, who was fifth, showed good speed away from the gate and passed American Dubai heading into the first turn. He was very keen while attempts were made by Joe Rocco Jr. to rate him, and as this was his first race with blinkers, it’s possible they made him too aggressive. He ran along at a sharp clip to the far turn, lost the lead to American Dubai in upper stretch, and gradually faded in the final furlong while still well clear of nine rivals.

SYNCHRONY, who finished sixth, had no early speed and raced toward the rear of the pack around the first turn, was even with Whitmore with a half-mile to go and got the jump on that rival when launching a four-wide bid on the far turn, saw Whitmore fly past him less than a quarter-mile later, drifted out to the five path entering the lane, was a bit late to change leads, and pretty much went evenly through the lane. Not much excuse that I could see. He was third in the Smarty Jones, and the top four finishers from that race all failed to step up here.

Smarty Jones winner DISCREETNESS finished seventh. Hindered by his wide draw, he could not get over before the first turn and was caught seven paths wide for much of the turn. He made a run into and around the far turn while four paths wide and advanced as close as fifth, but came under a ride a quarter-mile out and lacked a sufficient response.

Z ROYAL, who was eighth, was three paths wide among a line of seven horses who were just behind the leaders into the first turn, got out badly midway around the first turn and bumped with CUTACORNER, raced in mid-pack down the backstretch, was outrun when trying to launch a rally two paths off the rail with three furlongs to go, passed some tired rivals in upper stretch, then drifted out slightly through the lane while making no impact late.

Cutacorner, who was ninth, was caught five paths wide around the first turn, got sideswiped by Z Royal midway on that turn, got shuffled back nearing the far turn, tried to launch a rally while four paths wide on the far turn but had nothing to give.

Smarty Jones runner-up GORDY FLORIDA, who finished 10th, was four paths wide into the first turn, advanced to a stalking position and thus avoided the bumping match behind him between Z Royal and Cutacorner, started to lose ground toward the end of the backstretch, ducked inside near the quarter pole under clever handling by Glenn Corbett but had no punch.

BIRD OF TREY, who was 11th, bumped with TORRONTES leaving the gate, raced just outside Collected around the first turn while forwardly placed, stayed outside Collected all the way down the backstretch and until midway on the far turn, then backed up.

WAR STROLL, who was 12th, was outrun in the early going and was near the back of the pack while three paths wide around the first turn, began to lose ground early on the backstretch and never offered any semblance of a rally.

Smarty Jones fourth-place finisher LUNA DE LOCO, who finished 13th, broke a bit awkwardly, then had just enough speed to wind up six paths wide in that seven-horse spread around the first turn. He advanced to sixth while in the clear heading into the backstretch, was deftly guided to the rail on the far turn by Ricardo Santana Jr., but had nothing thereafter.

Torrontes, who was last of 14, bumped with Bird of Trey shortly after the start, was shuffled back between rivals and then checked off heels while inside entering the first turn, angled inside Z Royal midway on the first turn, followed Collected down the backstretch, was asked to keep up with three furlongs to go but quickly dropped out of it.