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Southwest Stakes Odds & Preview: Kentucky Derby Favorites Essential Quality and Jackie’s Warrior Clash

Dave F.

by Dave F. in Horse Racing

Feb 25, 2021 · 7:24 AM PST

Southwest Stakes
Jockey Luis Saez rides Essential Quality to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile horse race at Keeneland Race Course, Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
  • Saturday’s Southwest Stakes features two serious Kentucky Derby Contenders
  • Jackie’s Warrior was the early chalk for the Run for the Roses, and Essential Quality is currently a top option
  • Who provides the best betting value Saturday in Hot Springs, Arkansas?

On the Road to the Kentucky Derby, Arkansas often plays a major role. The Rebel Stakes, Southwest Stakes, and Arkansas Derby, all contested at venerable Oaklawn Park, have produced Derby winners including Smarty Jones and Lil E. Tee.

Saturday’s Southwest Stakes has a strong field including the well-supported Essential Quality and juvenile standout Jackie’s Warrior.

Let’s look carefully at the field and consider where we can find betting value.

2021 Southwest Stakes Odds

Horse Odds
Essential Quality -120
Jackie’s Warrior +200
Spielberg +500
Saffa’s Day +1500
Woodhouse +2000
Santa Cruiser +2000
Last Samurai +2000

Odds from February 24

Essential Quality is not only the favorite this weekend, but has among the lowest Kentucky Derby odds. The challenge on Saturday is a-mile-and-a-sixteenth on a day that is forecast to see temperatures in the low 60’s and a 70-percent chance of rain.

Post time is slated for 5:58 pm EST, and the race will be broadcast on Fox Sports 2. The Southwest has been postponed twice because of major weather problems. There is no reason to believe it will get moved again. No ice storms are headed towards The Natural State this weekend.

The Favorite

Essential Quality looks the part. He is three-for-three, trained by the reigning Eclipse Award-winning conditioner Brad Cox, and owned by the deep pockets of Godolphin.

He capped 2020 as the top two-year-old in the country winning the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile.

Essential Quality benefited from a fast tempo in the Breeders Cup, and in making his seasonal debut might not be ready for his top race on Saturday. That said, it is hard to watch his performances from last year and not be super impressed.

Top Contenders

Jackie’s Warrior was the favorite in the Juvenile and didn’t run that poorly. He was compromised by the pace, and today doesn’t appear to have any horses who will really push him early on. Could this race resemble The Hopeful at Saratoga in September?

A winner of four out of five career races, Jackie’s Warrior is trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, and the time off since early November may be a benefit to a youngster who was busy last year.

Bob Baffert has dominated this division over the past decade. His entry, Spielberg, has just two victories in seven starts.

After finishing fourth in his 2021 debut last month in California, you would hope Spielberg is being trained like this is a big opportunity to indicate whether he is a legitimate Triple Crown contender or not. Put up or shut up.

The Longshots

Last Samauri has one win in three starts, but maybe his competition at Churchill Downs has been better than horses who have been running locally?

While his speed figures don’t show it, that was a pretty impressive stretch run.

Saffa’s Day has just one win in four starts, but the victory was his 2021 debut and it occurred at Oaklawn Park. He could be comfortable and coming on.

Woodhouse has one victory in two tries but ran a strong third on an off-track in Hot Springs just over two weeks ago. He may like the track, and the expected rain should suit him.

Southwest Stakes Best Bet

Jackie’s Warrior is no bargain at the price, and he is going to have to be a lot better to reverse the outcome in the Breeders Cup. Nobody else has done anything remotely close to the accomplishments of Essential Quality. Close to even money is a good price, even though it isn’t exciting. Getting the best horse against a field that has just one other realistic contender isn’t a bad bargain.

Pick: Essential Quality

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