2023 Southwest Stakes Cheatsheet
By TwinSpires Editorial Team, Sponsored Content

By Vance Hanson (TwinSpires.com)

1. SUN THUNDER (10-1) – Overcame some early trouble to blow the doors off his opposition in a one-mile maiden here on New Year’s eve, and can’t fault connections for throwing him in here, rather than an allowance; certainly has the pedigree to develop into any kind as he’s by Into Mischief and out of a dam that was produced by the champion sprinter Maryfield; seemingly not the strongest of candidates for the win, but natural progression and concurrent regression on the part of one or two others could lead to a minor slice.

2. CORONA BOLT (6-1) – Ready to step up in distance here after a dominating performance in the six-furlong Sugar Bowl S. at Fair Grounds, and his 99 Brisnet speed rating for that well within range of what is required to win this; sire capable at two turns and dam has produced Proven Strategies, a nine-furlong grass specialist; a likeable alternative to Arabian Knight, though no one should expect anything close to the 6-1 ML price.

3. JACE’S ROAD (4-1) – Draw a line through his run in the slop two back and his record to date is commendable; the main knock against his impressive-looking score in the Gun Runner S. at Fair Grounds last time is that he wasn’t pressured too strongly on the front end, thus had plenty left in reserve to draw off against a relatively suspect field; tougher conditions here, but retains the look of a top-three prospect.

4. WESTERN GHENT (20-1) – A double-digit longshot every time he’s started, he outran expectations when fourth in the Smarty Jones S. at 56-1 earlier this month; that anomaly sticks out on the record of this maiden claiming grad, and doubt it’s repeated or bettered against this deeper group.

5. FROSTED DEPARTURE (15-1) – Went to post nine times last season, culminating with a victory in the Dec. 31 Renaissance S. here over six furlongs; his two attempts going a route last fall left much to be desired, though, and he’s been inconsistent at firing his best shot even around one turn; others offer more appeal.

6. ARABIAN KNIGHT (1-1) – Dazzled as a hot favorite in his debut at Keeneland on Breeders’ Cup weekend; his closest pursuer was Determinedly, who won two of his next three but was only a modest third in the Gun Runner and has since appeared to have some distance limitations; hard to argue with a 104 Brisnet speed rating for that maiden win, though, and barn co-holds the record for most wins in this Derby prep; expectations are high and he’s undoubtedly the one to fear, but a couple of these don’t look like pushovers and his odds will be miserly.

7. RED ROUTE ONE (10-1) – A possible sleeper here; a distant third in one of the better juvenile heats last term (Breeders’ Futurity [G1]), he might not have handled the slop in the Street Sense (G3) next out, and then encountered traffic and other issues when fourth in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) to Instant Coffee, who took a step forward himself in the Lecomte (G3) last week; main knock is barn is having a surprisingly frustrating meet this winter, with four times as many seconds and thirds as wins, so wouldn’t be surprised is this Gun Runner colt followed that trend.

8. HIT SHOW (10-1) – Streak of starting as the post-race favorite will end here, but that’s due more to the quality of opposition than his record, which is respectable 2-for-3 after a comfortable allowance win here last month; it wasn’t an overly fast win, so he’ll need to step things up a bit, but remains with loads of potential; pedigree suggests he’ll continue to get better with maturity and distance as the Candy Ride colt is out of Actress, who won the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) and Comely (G3) over nine panels.

9. EL TOMATE (30-1) – Although it wasn’t a fast race on raw time, his seven-furlong debut at Remington last month was a visually strong performance as he walloped the opposition by more than five lengths; this test is another order of magnitude, though, as he concedes crucial experience to all but Arabian Knight, who ran a much faster race first out at Keeneland; unless he turns in a surprise effort, don’t foresee him handling the class hike well.