Road to the Derby: Strong Mandate Heads Southwest Field at Oaklawn Park

11 go to the gate in Monday's $150,000 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park. (photo credit: Oaklawn Park)

The D. Wayne Lukas trained Strong Mandate makes his three-year-old debut in Monday’s $300,000 Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn Park as the 2-1 morning line favorite in a field of 11.

The race offers up 17 Derby points with 10 going to the winner as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series of races. The race is the last race with points of 10-4-2-1 to the top four finishers, with the stakes going up starting with next Saturday’s Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park where the top four finishers will earn 50-20-10-5 points.

Strong Mandate, who closed at 17-1 in Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, will be making his first start since running third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita on Nov. 2. Lukas will give a leg up to jockey Joel Rosario, who rode the colt for the first time in his last outing.

Four of the top five finishers of the Smarty Jones on Jan. 20 return including the winner Tanzanite Cat. Although the Smarty Jones is the local prep for the Southwest, over the last decade only Archarcharch in 2011 won the race after prepping in the Smarty Jones.

Last year’s winner Super Ninety Nine and the 2012 winners (the race as run in divisions) Castaway and Secret Circle shipped in from the west coast for trainer Bob Baffert, but no runners based in Southern California made the trip this year.

The Southwest is the prep for the marquee event of the Oaklawn Park meeting, the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) on Saturday, April 12.

Let’s head out to Hot Springs for Monday’s featured race of the day:


Oaklawn Park Race 9 The Southwest G3 Post time 5:09 CT

7 Strong Mandate   2-1

2 Tapiture   3-1

6 Walt   15-1

4 Louies Flower   12-1

Strong Mandate makes his first start since a third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), beaten two lengths for the top spot. The colt had a tough post, was sent up to set a sharp early pace and did not have enough punch left late. It was his first start around two turns and he bounced back after failing to fire in the Champagne (G1). Three back he won the seven furlong Hopeful (G1) in the mud by 9 ¾ lengths.

The colt has posted a couple of bullet works over the main track here for his first start off a 3 ½-month break. The Lukas barn is on the light side with layoff types, hitting at just a 5% clip with runners coming back off a 61-180 day break, but this colt has a ton of talent. He is out of the stakes winner Clear Mandate ($1.08 million) that has dropped eight other winners including stakes winner Newfoundland ($677,534).

Tapiture makes his first start since picking up his first win in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs. That was not a real tough race, the third, fourth and fifth place finishers were maidens as was this guy. The colt wintered at Fair Grounds and has a solid looking local drill for his three-year-old debut for the Steve Asmussen barn that is 15% winners with runners coming back off a 61-180 day layoff.

Walt adds blinkers today after a good effort in the Smarty Jones. The colt pressed the early pace while down along the inside but could not match strides late with Tanzanite Cat late. Two back the colt made a mild late rally to finish fourth in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park. The colt owns solid early and mid pace number sand with the hood added figures to be part of what is going to be a sharp pace. Worth tossing in the mix at a generous price.


WIN: Strong Mandate to win at 2-1 or better.

EXACTA: 2,7 / 2,4,6,7

TRIFECTA: 2,7 / 2,4,6,7 / 2,4,6,7,8


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