Wells Bayou looks strong at square odds in Southwest

The Grade III, $750,000 Southwest Stakes is the feature at Oaklawn Park this Presidents’ Day. The 1/16th-mile heat for three-year-olds, which carries 17 points toward the Kentucky Derby (10-4-2-1 format), drew a field of nine. Post time for the Southwest, Race 9 of 10 on the day, is approximately 5:43 p.m. ET.

#1 WELLS BAYOU (8-1) steps up in the Southwest off an allowance victory but could go off at fair odds. He hinted at serious ability in his 2 1/2-length maiden score going six furlongs on a sloppy strip at Keeneland. His first try versus winners, also in the slop, did not go well as he took part in a pace that fell apart as he stretched out in distance. But WELLS BAYOU bounced back nicely at Oaklawn last time out, earning a career-best figure, albeit in the mud once more. Florent Geroux takes over on this Brad Cox trainee that could be a handful regardless of track condition.

#4 GOLD STREET (6-1) is another that’s done his best running in the slop as he enters the Southwest on a three-race winning streak, all on off-tracks.  That includes his facile last-out victory in the Smarty Jones over this course. GOLD STREET picks up a 1/16th in this heat but that shouldn’t inhibit him. Martin Garcia may only have to battle the top choice for the lead in the Southwest – a ‘merry-go-round’ result would not surprise, especially if the track comes up less than fast.

#7 VILLAINOUS (15-1) didn’t show much when sprinting on debut but his distance pedigree (by Wicked Strong) helped him stalk and score in a 1 1/16th-mile maiden heat at Oaklawn when last seen. However, that effort came in the mud. VILLAINOUS is a wild card in the Southwest but he’ll have high-percentage connections in his corner in trainer Jeremiah Englehart (5-2-1-0 at the meet) and jockey David Cohen (24 percent at the meet).

#9 ANSWER IN (3-1, morning-line favorite) fits with these on speed figures. He was last seen finishing a narrow second behind SHOPLIFTED in December’s Springboard Mile at Remington. Javier Castellano rides.

The play: $4 exacta box 1/4, $2 exacta 1,4/7,9, $4 win 7 ($20)

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