Image for Brian Zipse Brian Zipse - October 14, 2022

Southwest Stakes (Oaklawn Park) Predictions, Odds & Picks

Southwest Stakes 2021
If you're playing only to win, go with my top pick Jackie’s Warrior (2/1)

Brian Zipse

Post Position and Odds – Southwest Stakes

Check out our predictions and odds for the 2021 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park!

PP Horse Odds Jockey Trainer
L Saez B Cox
2 SAFFA’S DAY 15/1
R Santana Jr S Asmussen
J Court D Stewart
J Rosario S Asmussen
R Eramia J K Desormeaux
D Cabrera C Trout
M Garcia B Baffert

Best Bets for the Southwest Stakes

Here are my plays ($30 in total)

$20 Exacta – Jackie’s Warrior over Essential Quality = $20

$10 Exacta – Jackie’s Warrior over Spielberg = $10

Top Pick:

Jackie’s Warrior (2/1)

After a couple of weather delays, last year’s 2-year-old champion, Essential Quality, will begin his road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby when he headlines a field of seven 3-year-olds set for Saturday’s Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

A winner of all three of his starts in 2020, the Brad Cox-trained son of Tapit will be heavily favored in his 3-year-old debut. Last season, he stormed through a maiden race at Churchill Downs and a pair of Grade 1 races at Keeneland. When last seen, he was a rallying winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, which secured an Eclipse Award. Luis Saez will be aboard again for the champion’s first start in nearly four months.

Chief among his rivals will be the horse that was favored over him in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Jackie’s Warrior. He faded to fourth in that race, but before that he rattled off four straight easy victories, three of them coming in graded stakes. Like Essential Quality, the two-time Grade 1 winner will be making his first start since the Breeders’ Cup on November 6.

Contested at 1 1/16-miles, the $750,000 Southwest Stakes will offer Kentucky Derby qualifying points of 10-4-2-1, respectively, to the top four finishers.

How to watch the Southwest Stakes

Southwest Stakes Information
What Southwest Stakes (Grade 3)
Where Oaklawn Park
When Saturday, February 27 — 4:58 pm Central time
How to Watch TVG
Purse $750,000

Race Analysis

Essential Quality

A deserving champion after convincing scores in both the Grade 1 Breeders Futurity and the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, it’s finally time we see the undefeated champion return to the races. With good tactical speed and a strong finishing punch, he was the best juvenile in the nation in 2020. Proven at the distance, he should only get better the longer they go. Having said all that, he does not need to win on Saturday, as there are much bigger goals coming in a few months. There is every reason to believe he will run another strong race here, but I do see this as a tricky spot for the son of Tapit. While I believe he has much greater potential for the spring classics, he is vulnerable to the early speed of his main competitor on Saturday.

Jackie’s Warrior

We shouldn’t forget why this one was heavily favored in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. It came on the strength of four very impressive victories, including scores in the Grade 1 Hopeful and Grade 1 Champagne. His fourth-place finish in the Juvenile was not great, but considering the fast pace and big field, it wasn’t so bad either. Now the Steve Asmussen charge gets Essential Quality again, but this time in a small field, with much less early speed. He is the controlling pace of this race, and it will be up to one of the others to go and get him. If he can relax in the early stages of this race, I expect the son of Maclean’s Music to prove very strong down the stretch. He is the top pick.


Trainer Bob Baffert has had a great history of bringing in his 3-year-olds to Oaklawn Park. On Saturday he looks for more with this $1 million son of Union Rags. The most experienced colt in the field, he’s already run in five graded stakes races out in Southern California. Despite finishing in the top four in all of them, his results have honestly been a little hit or miss. A nice win in the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity in December was followed by a disappointing fourth last time in the Robert B. Lewis. At his best, he’s a threat, but he will need to run better than his last to defeat either of the top two.

Saffa’s Day

After being taken down from an impressive debut win sprinting at Keeneland, this Steve Asmussen-trained son of Carpe Diem tried stakes company in his next two starts but was no match in either the Nyquist or Springboard Mile. Still a maiden, because of the disqualification, he returned last time against non-winners and earned a nose victory at Oaklawn Park. It was a good prep, and game performance, but not enough to believe he can beat the best in this $750,000 race.


The least experienced horse in the field, this one will likely have big odds in the Southwest. He won nicely in his debut at Remington Park in December, and then came back to run third in an allowance race at Oaklawn Park. He had some trouble in that one and was only beaten a length, so it was a good effort overall. Now he makes a big step up in class, though. Perhaps he still has more upside than a few other longshots in here, but this looks like a tall order for the son of Speightstown in his stakes debut.

Santa Cruiser

This son of Dialed In showed some promise as a juvenile, but he has already had two chances against quality competition over in New Orleans and failed to menace each time. This will be his third try against graded stakes competition within six weeks and unless he just didn’t care for the Fair Grounds racing surface, I cannot imagine him handling the likes of Essential Quality and Jackie’s Warrior on Saturday.

Last Samurai

In three starts last year, all at Churchill Downs, this son of Malibu Moon was twice well beaten by the good competition. He did earn a hard-fought victory in his second start, but it was not overly impressive. There is plenty of room for improvement for the Dallas Stewart-trainee, but expecting him to make a splash in his stakes debut, and against this bunch, is hard to see.

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Brian Zipse

218 Articles

Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.

Email: [email protected]

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