02/16/2011 3:03PM

Yankee Passion gets green light for Southwest Stakes

Jeff Coady/ Coady Photography
Yankee Passion, winning his first start of the meet on Jan. 27, indicated his readiness for Monday's Southwest Stakes by working a five-furlong bullet Wednesday at Oaklawn Park.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – There were at least nine probables for Monday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Southwest at Oaklawn Park as of Wednesday morning, with Yankee Passion confirming his place in the lineup after a bullet five-furlong workout. Entries for the one-mile race for 3-year-olds will be taken on Saturday.

“We possibly could have up to 11,” said Pat Pope, the racing secretary at Oaklawn.

J P’s Gusto, the winner of last year’s Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity and the lone Oaklawn-based 3-year-old listed in the first pool of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, leads the prospective field. Ramon Dominguez has the mount on the horse, who will be making his first start since finishing second in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park on Dec. 18.

Yankee Passion worked in company with fellow Southwest nominee Commander on Wednesday, right after the renovation break. He worked along the rail under regular rider Gabriel Saez, sitting just off Commander and jockey Terry Thompson. Yankee Passion finished with good energy through the stretch, hitting the wire about a half-length in front of his company, in 1:01. Clockers caught him galloping out six furlongs in 1:16. Commander, who worked without the blinkers he has worn in his last two starts, went in 1:01.20, which was the second fastest move of 44 at the distance on Wednesday.

Trainer Larry Jones said he was pleased with both horses, with Yankee Passion to go to the Southwest.

“It looked like Commander was going to get the best of the work coming out of the turn, then Yankee Passion started getting in gear,” Jones said. “He did well. He did it the right way.”

Jones said Commander, who is still maturing mentally, will pass on the race Monday.

“We found some things we wanted to change on him and work on,” he said. “We’ll make more adjustments before he goes again.”

Yankee Passion has won 2 of 3 starts, his latest a first-level allowance sprint at Oaklawn on Jan. 27. He stalked the pace, split horses, and covered six furlongs in a sharp 1:10.80. Yankee Passion, who races for his breeder, Brereton Jones, won his debut in a maiden special weight at Delaware Park in August.

Fires pair set for Southwest

Trainer Jinks Fires said on Wednesday that Archarcharch and Bluegrass Bull are both set to run in the Southwest. Archarcharch, who is to be ridden by Jon Court, finished fourth as the favorite in the $100,000 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn in his last start Jan. 17.

“He came out of the race with a filled-up hock,” said Fires.

Archarcharch has since come back with a strong work at Oaklawn, going six furlongs in a bullet 1:15 on Monday. Prior to the Smarty Jones, he had won the $56,000 Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds.

Bluegrass Bull, who is to be ridden by Michael Baze, was third in the Smarty Jones.

“He ran a giant race last time out, and we feel good about him going back,” said Fires.

Other probables for the Southwest are Caleb’s Posse, the Smarty Jones winner to be ridden by Eddie Razo; Elite Alex, Calvin Borel; Alternation, Luis Quinonez; Grant Jack, Cliff Berry; and Brickyard Fast, Bryan McNeil.

Pope said Oaklawn had slightly more than 100 early-bird nominations for its graded series for 3-year-olds that begins with the Southwest and continues with the Grade 2, $300,000 Rebel on March 19 and the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 16.

“Anything over 90 is very good,” said Pope.

The Southwest is one of three stakes being run over the holiday weekend at Oaklawn. The action begins Saturday with the $100,000 Bayakoa, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares expected to draw Taptam and Be Fair, the respective second and third-place finishers to Zenyatta in last meet’s Grade 1 Apple Blossom.

The feature Sunday is the $60,000 Spring Fever, a 5 1/2-furlong sprint for fillies and mares that could draw Shotgun Gulch, who shipped from Remington Park to Santa Anita for her last start and ran third in the Grade 1 La Brea.