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Strong Mandate, above after winning the Hopeful Stakes in September 2013, could be vulnerable on Monday at Oaklawn Park in the Southwest Stakes (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

Over the past decade, the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park has grown to be one of the most highly anticipated Kentucky Derby prep races. Although the Grade 3 race is considered a minor prep, based on the Derby points schedule (the winner only gets 10 points compared with 50 and 100 respectively awarded to the winners of Oaklawn's Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby), many recent Southwest winners have gone on to run on the first Saturday in May (Archarcharch, Denis of Cork, Lawyer Ron) and one (Smarty Jones) went on to win the Kentucky Derby (2004).

Exactly a decade after Smarty Jones won the Southwest as an overwhelming favorite (1-to-2 odds), we’re going to look for a horse who can do the complete opposite and upset the field at long odds. The probable favorite will be #7 Strong Mandate. He’s trained by champion trainer D. Wayne Lukas and he’ll be ridden by last year’s Kentucky Derby-winning jockey, Joel Rosario.

As a 2-year-old, Strong Mandate was an impressive 9 3/4-length winner of the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga. However, he has yet to show the ability to stretch out to a mile, finishing a well-beaten seventh in the one-mile Champagne Stakes and tiring to finish third in the 1 1/16-mile Breeder's Cup Juvenile. For that reason, I think we can make a fairly confident play against him at the 1 1/16-mile distance of the Southwest.

Another favorite we’ll be playing against is #2 Tapiture (3-to-1 morning line odds). This highly regarded son of Tapit earned his first victiry last out in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs. While he won that 1 1/16-mile race by an easy 4 1/4 lengths, he stalked an easy pace early and was able to draw off after a nearly perfect trip. Drawing the rail here (he will actually break from the starting gate in the one hole because the 1/1A entry is slotted in the three and six spots), he’ll have to exert more energy early to not get shuffled back. If he does get stuck on the rail, he’ll have to swing wide late because shooting up the rail late to win isn’t something you often see horses do at Oaklawn. Given the uncertainty of his trip and his condition coming off of a 2 ½-month layoff, we will do just that with Tapiture: lay off.

Three Longshots with Legitimate Upset Shots in Southwest

#1/#1A Tanzanite Cat/Paganol (8-to-1 odds)

I had Paganol pegged as my top choice in the Southwest Stakes before ever seeing the morning-line odds. I was happy to see him listed at 8-to-1, but recognizing that he’s listed as part of an entry (trained by the red-hot Cody Autrey), the morning-line odds seem a little inflated relative to the price we’re more likely get on him. For starters, the plain #1 Tanzanite Cat comes off of a stellar performance in winning the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn last month. While this field of horses is exceedingly tougher than what he faced last out, I don't think he can completely be counted out.


Tanzanite Cat

Photo by Coady Photography

As for Paganol, he’s a horse who might be overlooked on the basis of just having a single race under his belt. However, that single race was quite impressive. Sent off at odds of 7-to-1 in his debut last month, Paganol broke dead last from a wide post. In order to even factor in the race, he had to be rushed up early by jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. While many horses, especially young ones, might tire after such a dramatic early or middle move, Paganol battled on. He got to the lead and then held off several horses who didn't have to overcome nearly as much as he did.

The horse who finished second in that race, Street Strategy, came back to win next out. It’s also nice to see Arroyo opting to take the mount on Paganol over two other contenders in here that he’d previously ridden – Tanzanite Cat and Bourbonize. The only question with Paganol is whether he can handle the added distance off of a six-furlong debut win. I don’t see anything that suggests this Tiz Wonderful colt can’t.

#5 Kendall’s Boy (12-to-1 odds)

The versatile Sky Mesa colt has shown the ability to win on the lead and to rate just off of it. Kendall's Boy looked extremely sharp in an allowance-level win in his most recent race, holding off two very highly regarded horses in Be Well and Big Sugar Soda to win by two lengths. He’s 2-for-3 on a dirt main track and his only clunker came in the Grade 1 Breeder’s Futurity on the synthetic Polytrack surface at Keeneland Race Course. While he broke poorly and never really seemed to have a shot from the start in that one, it is somewhat concerning that he didn’t close any ground late in the race. The distance is a question with this one but it’s worth giving him another shot on what appears to be his preferred surface, especially if we can indeed get him at double-digit odds.


Kendalls Boy Eclipse

Photo by Eclipse Sportswire

#11 Bourbonize (15-to-1 odds)

Another son of Tiz Wonderful, Bourbonize has done very little wrong in his two career starts. He’s shown that he can win a fast track and a wet one as well as both sprinting and stretching out. He’ll be going a little longer in the Southwest and breaking from the widest post position. However, his late running style should afford top-notch Oaklawn rider Ramon Vazquez the luxury of taking back early, sitting off of what should be a hot pace and making one run late. Whether this horse belongs with elite 3-year-olds like Strong Mandate remains to be seen, but he hasn’t taken a poor step yet. 


If Strong Mandate still scares you to the point that you can’t leave him off of your tickets, consider including him in an exacta and/or trifecta box with my longshot picks. For $36, you can play the following and give yourself a nice shot at a big payday if we can get two of our longer prices to come out on top. 

$1 Exacta Box 1-5-7-11 ($12 total)

$1 Trifecta Box 1-5-7-11 ($24 total)

$300,000 Southwest Stakes

Monday, Oaklawn Park, Race 9, 6:09 p.m. ET

3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles (dirt)









Ricardo Santana Jr.

Steve Asmussen




Shaun Bridgmohan

Mark Casse



Tanzanite Cat

Corey Nakatani

Cody Autrey



Louies Flower

Luis Quinonez

Bret Calhoun



Kendall's Boy

Leandro Goncalves

Tom Amoss




Norberto Arroyo Jr.

Cody Autrey




Ken Tohill

Chris Hartman



Strong Mandate

Joel Rosario

D. Wayne Lukas



Ride On Curlin

Calvin Borel

William Gowan



Son of Dixie

Clifton Berry

Bret Calhoun



Fire Starter

Robby Albarado

Steve Hobby




Ramon Vazquez

Kellyn Gorder

#-coupled entry

Image Description

Dan Tordjman

Dan Tordjman is the founder of the horse racing website and is a freelance writer, blogger and handicapper. A Syracuse University graduate, Tordjman has spent much of the last decade traveling the country while working in the television industry and has worked tirelessly to promote Thoroughbred racing on his website.

Image Description

Dan Tordjman

Dan Tordjman is the founder of the horse racing website and is a freelance writer, blogger and handicapper. A Syracuse University graduate, Tordjman has spent much of the last decade traveling the country while working in the television industry and has worked tirelessly to promote Thoroughbred racing on his website.

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