Road to the Kentucky Derby: Leading contender Essential Quality heads Southwest Stakes
The rescheduled Southwest Stakes is set for Saturday, Feb. 27, at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort. Better known as Oaklawn Park, the Hot Springs, Arkansas, track hosts the $750,000 race and awards 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner.
The favorite is Jackie’s Warrior, one of two runners in the race trained by Steve Asmussen. The leading contender is Essential Quality, who is near the top of the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard. Essential Quality bypassed the Risen Star Stakes to target the Southwest Stakes, which has now been rescheduled twice due to winter storm warnings and freezing conditions.
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The field will be finalized on Feb. 24, with post time and morning line odds to follow and be updated on this site. The Grade III race awards 10-4-2-1 Derby points to the top 4 finishers.
1 – Essential Quality (5-2)
- Jockey: Luis Saez
- Trainer: Brad Cox
2 – Saffa’s Day (10-1)
- Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
- Trainer: Steve Asmussen
3 – Last Samurai (12-1)
- Jockey: Jon Court
- Trainer: Dallas Stewart
4 – Jackie’s Warrior (8-5)
- Jockey: Joel Rosario
- Trainer: Steve Asmussen
5 – Santa Cruiser (12-1)
- Jockey: Adam Bischizza
- Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
6 – Woodhouse (8-1)
- Jockey: David Cabrera
- Trainer: C.R. Trout
7 – Spielberg (9-2)
- Jockey: Flavien Prat
- Trainer: Bob Baffert
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Race contenders, including Essential Quality and Jackie’s Warrior profiles
Brad Cox-trained Essential Quality is 3 for 3 and makes his 2021 debut in the Southwest Stakes. He won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November and posted his best Equibase Speed Figure (101) when defeating Keepmeinmind and Jackie’s Warrior. He’s won a pair of Grade I races, and the striking gray son of Tapit tops the current 2021 NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Thoroughbred Poll.
Jackie’s Warrior is 4 for 5, with his last race, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, a fourth-place finish. He was the 4-5 favorite in that race and finished 3 lengths behind winner Essential Quality and a length behind third-place finisher Keepmeinmind. Jackie’s Warrior has won three graded stakes races including a pair of Grade 1’s. His best Equibase Speed Figure (ESF) was 105, when winning the Saratoga Special last August.
Keepmeinmind has hit the board in all four starts, including three graded stakes wins. It was announced that he’ll now skip the Southwest Stakes due to the weather delays that affected his training and run in the $1 million Rebel Stakes on March 13 at Oaklawn. His one victory was his last race, in November, when he won the Kentucky Jockey Club as the 2-1 favorite. That race followed his third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, where he posted his best Equibase Speed Figure (98).
Spielberg has two wins and two runner-up finishes in seven starts and will be making his sixth graded stakes start in the Southwest. His best ESF in those graded stakes races was 101 when winning the Los Alamitos Futurity in December.