There have been two proven ways to win the South West Stakes in Oaklawn. For the horses trained by Bob Baffert, it’s been going to the front lines and staying there. For others, it closed on the rhythm.

    History is about to repeat itself one way or another on Saturday. Arab knight (1-1), the morning line favorite, could try to lead from gate to wire again, this time against eight other 3-year-olds who will try to catch him in 3rd grade, $750,000 in point prep for Kentucky Derby 2023.

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    Amr Zedan’s $2.3million colt Uncle Mo could become Baffert’s record sixth winner in the South West. Conveyance, Secret Circle, Castaway and Super Ninety Nine had an avant-garde style in common.

    Even Newgrange last year never went further than 2 1/2 lengths in third through the first six furlongs. Fourth in the sequence, he was less than three quarters of a length away from making his winning shot.

    Conversely, nine of the last 11 winners from the South West who have not been coached by Baffert have come from at least fourth place or no less than three lengths behind at any given call.

    These are the past performance lines of South West winners since 2000, according to Equibase:

    Year Winner 1/4 1/2 3/4 Str Fin
    2022 Newgrange 3 – 2 3 – 2 1/2 3 – 2 4 – 3/4 1
    2021 Essential Quality 5 – 3 1/2 4 – 2 1/2 3 – high definition 1 1
    2020 silver prospector 6 – 1 3/4 3 – 1 1/2 3 – 1 1 1
    2019 Super Steed 9 – 5 1/4 9 – 3 1/2 5 – 1/2 1 1
    2018 My boy Jack 8 – 8 1/2 9 – 8 1/2 8 – 3 3/4 1 1
    2017 Right word 4 – 3 4 – 2 1/2 3 – 3 2 – 1 1
    2016 Sudden news 14 – 15 14 – 12 1/2 12 – 8 1/2 5 – 5 1/2 1
    2015 Far right 9 – 9 3/4 8 – 9 8 – 4 3/4 4 – 3/4 1
    2014 The rugs 2 – 1/2 3 – high definition 1 1 1
    2013 super ninety nine 1 1 1 1 1
    2012 Castaway 2 – 1/2 2 – 1/2 2 – high definition 1 1
    secret circle 2 – 1 2 – 1 2 – high definition 2 – high definition 1
    2011 Archarch 5 – 6 1/2 4 – 3 4 – 3/4 1 1
    2010 Transportation 1 1 1 1 1
    2009 old-fashioned 2 – 1 2 – 2 2 – 1/2 1 1
    2008 Dennis of Liege 5 – 8 1/2 5 – 18 4 – 9 3 – 1/2 1
    2007 Teuflesberg 1 1 1 1 1
    2006 Lawyer Ron 1 1 1 1 1
    2005 greater good 7 – 9 3/4 7 – 11 1/4 6 – 4 1/4 3 – 4 1/2 1
    2004 Smarty Jones 2 – 1 1/2 2 – 2 1/2 2 – high definition 1 1
    2003 great idea 1 1 1 1 1
    2002 Private emblem 4 – 10 4 – 8 4 – 1 1/4 3 – 1 1/2 1
    Paloma Parilla 3 – 2 1/2 3 – 1/2 1 1 1
    2001 rocket wires 1 1 1 1 1
    2000 afternoon affair 5 – 4 1/2 3 – 3. 2 – 1 1/2 1 1

    Quirin Speed ​​Points, the Brisnet feature that quantifies racing styles, shows just two of the nine South West horses this weekend with an E, or early, designation meaning a likelihood of leading or near the lead on the back stretch of the 1 1/16-mile race. Arabian Knight has an E 6, and the early winner trained by D. Wayne Lukas Western Ghent (20-1) has an E 3. The higher the number between 0 and 8, the more likely a horse is to be ahead in the first round.

    Jace’s Road (4-1), Corona Bolt (6-1) and Frosted Departure (15-1) are all E/Ps, i.e. early rush horses, horses that tend to follow or to assess the pace. Red Route One (10-1) and Hit Show (10-1) are P horses, or pressers, who are more likely to be in the middle of the pack. Sun Thunder (10-1) and El Tomate (30-1) are S horses, or closer.

    Although the Southwest has been a points prep since the current qualifying system began 10 years ago, it hasn’t had a rich history of producing Kentucky Derby winners, not even going back to its roots as in March 1968 as Southwest Handicap. Only Lil E. Tee in 1992 and Smarty Jones in 2004 graduated from the race to win the roses in Louisville.

    A correlation can be drawn between the South West’s penchant for rewarding closings in winter and the Derby’s tendency to reward being forward in early spring. Six of the last nine winners of America’s biggest race have never been further than third place in a classification call. Rich Strike was an 80-1 exception last year. The other two, Country House in 2019 and Mandaloun in 2021, didn’t even cross the finish line first.

    Only seven horses from the South West made it to the Derby plateau. This is how they have all done since 2000:

    Year Horse quirin SW Derby
    2022 barber’s road S2 2nd 6th
    2021 Essential Quality E/P 4 1st *3rd
    2020
    2019 cut humor P4 7th *10th
    Long Range Toddy E/P 5 3rd *16th
    2018 My boy Jack S0 1st 5th
    Fighter P0 2nd 18th
    2017 Look Lee S0 3rd 2nd
    From where S1 7th 11th
    2016 Sudden news S0 1st 5th
    Whitmore S0 2nd 19th
    2015 Mr. Z E 6 3rd 13th
    Far right S0 1st 15th
    2014 Ride on Curlin E/P 5 3rd 7th
    The rugs E/P 4 1st 15th
    2013 will support P3 6th 8th
    2012
    2011 Archarch P4 1st 15th
    2010 Dublin S2 2nd 7th
    Impossible mission E/P 5 3rd 9th
    Transportation E 8 1st 15th
    2009
    2008 Dennis of Liege P2 1st 3rd
    2007 hard spun E 6 4th 2nd
    Teuflesberg E5 1st 17th
    2006 steppenwolfer S0 2nd 3rd
    Lawyer Ron E/P 6 1st 12th
    2005 greater good S2
    2004 Smarty Jones E/P 7 1st 1st
    Pro Prado S2 3rd 13th
    2003
    2002 Private emblem E/P 5 1st 14th
    2001 arctic boy S2 2nd 12th
    2000

    It’s not all about styles. There’s also the coaches’ reluctance to race their best 3-year-olds ahead of Oaklawn’s older, bigger builds, namely the Rebel (G2) and Arkansas Derby (G1). According to the Churchill Downs media guide, the Southwest has a collective Kentucky Derby record of 39:2-2-3, the Rebel of 59:3-2-3 and the Arkansas Derby of 118:7-5 -8.

    Seven Kentucky Derby winners have previously raced at Oaklawn, including Sunny’s Halo in 1983, Lil E. Tee in 1992, Grindstone in 1996, Smarty Jones in 2004, Super Saver in 2010, American Pharoah in 2015 and Country House in 2019. Most skipped early prep races, but they all showed up for the Arkansas Derby.

    Arabian Knight might be the exception, at least in the minds of Las Vegas Derby bettors. Although he is expected to be transferred to another coach by February 28 due to the suspension of Baffert’s Churchill Downs, he was the 8-1 favorite Wednesday morning at Caesars Sportsbook and the second choice 11-1 behind the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Forte at Circa Des sports.

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