02/22/2011 2:38PM

Top three Southwest finishers will move on to Rebel

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Archarcharch, winner of the Southwest Stakes, is likely to be close to 10-1 in Saturday's Rebel Stakes.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark.-– The rematch is on.

Archarcharch, J P’s Gusto, and Elite Alex – the first three finishers in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn on Monday – are all being pointed for next month’s Grade 2, $300,000 Rebel, their connections said on Tuesday.

Archarcharch was a one-length winner over J P’s Gusto, and both horses, as well as Elite Alex, encountered trouble in the one-mile Southwest. The Grade 3, $250,000 race was the first of two local stepping-stones to the Arkansas Derby. The Rebel, at 1 1/16 miles, is up next, on March 19.

“We’re kind of on target to do the Arkansas Triple Crown,” said Jinks Fires, who trains Archarcharch for Robert Yagos.

Archarcharch was forced wide into the first turn of the Southwest after a slow start, then put in a sustained run from the half-mile pole home, while racing four wide around the final turn. He covered the distance in 1:38.23, and earned a Beyer Figure of 89.

“In the gate he was kind of sitting on the back of the gate, which got him out just a little bit tardy but not real bad,” Fires said. “He’s a pretty fast horse, and I didn’t want him on the lead anyway.”

Archarcharch settled into stride down the backside, then drifted toward the inside in the late stages of the race that was run before a ontrack throng of 25,237.

“With everybody screaming and hollering, sometimes they’ll drift in from the noise of the crowd,” said Fires.

Archarcharch picked up $150,000 in graded earnings in what was his fourth career start, and now sits 15th on the list for the Kentucky Derby. Jon Court, who won last year’s Arkansas Derby aboard Line of David, is the regular rider on Archarcharch.

J P’s Gusto did not get a clean run as the Southwest favorite, but rallied up the inside in a solid effort that keeps him on track for the Rebel.

“He came back real good,” said Joe Petalino, who trains J P’s Gusto. “It was effortless for him, anyway. He came back and he wouldn’t blow out a match.”

Petalino said J P’s Gusto was “pushed down inside early” in the race. From there, he was unable to launch his bid in a timely fashion as the field was tightly bunched around the final turn. Nearing the wire, J P’s Gusto steadied as Archarcharch drifted toward the inside.

“It didn’t help him any,” said Petalino.

Petalino’s other starter in the race, Brickyard Fast, emerged with a non-displaced condylar fracture to his left foreleg. Brickyard Fast dueled and finished ninth in his first start since running second in the $250,000 Springboard Mile in December at Remington Park. He will be out for at least six months, said Petalino.

“He got jostled all around,” Petalino said of Brickyard Fast.

Elite Alex had troubles of his own in the Southwest, but emerged in good health and will progress to the Rebel, said his trainer, Tim Ritchey.

“I think that will be more to his liking, a little longer race,” he said. “I think he had a little too much to do going a flat mile, and the speed was holding a little bit. Not taking anything away from the winner – he ran a great race, obviously, and so did the second horse, but we were parked about nine or 10 wide and that compromised us.

“The mile races, what happens is, all those horses can go three-quarters or seven-eighths and then you get a bunch of them between the three-quarters and the seven-eighths part of the race and they’re all spread across the racetrack. Unfortunately, we were the outside one. But you know what, he got some graded stakes money, he got more experience. And we don’t want him to just run a mile. We want him to run a mile and a quarter.”