If there is any truth to the adage that attitude is everything, trainer Larry Jones has a warning for any horse who lines up against his charge, Old Fashioned.
"Old Fashioned always thought he was better than the next horse," Jones said at Oaklawn Park this week.
Indeed, the son of Unbridled's Song has so far been a picture of perfection in his young career.
Fox Hill Farms' Old Fashioned will put his unblemished record on the line when he makes his anticipated 3-year-old debut Monday against 10 others in the Grade III Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
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Undefeated in three career starts, including a 71/4-length rout in the Grade II Remsen Stakes last November, Old Fashioned has been training sharply for the one-mile Southwest and lost what was expected to be his toughest challenger when Grade I winner Square Eddie was forced to miss the race with a shin injury.
As the only graded stakes winner in the field, Old Fashioned appears to have a serious class edge over his competition — which includes Smarty Jones Stakes winner Flat Out. Even if he is a bit rusty in making his first start since Nov. 29, it would be a stunner if he ends up anywhere but the winner's circle.
"He is a horse that requires very little training, he is a very fit horse," Jones said.
It seems that Old Fashioned's debut should shape up much better than that of Godolphin Racing's Vineyard Haven, who finished a dull fourth behind his ever-improving stablemate Desert Party in the UAE 2000 Guineas at Nad al Sheba last Thursday.
Even though his connections stated they thought the multiple Grade I-winning son of Lido Palace would need the race, Vineyard Haven's complete lack of kick in the stretch was disappointing to say the least.
One contender who did not disappoint at all this weekend was Chocolate Candy. The son of Candy Ride successfully stepped up into graded stakes company when he notched a gritty win in the Grade III, 11⁄8-mile El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields Saturday.
Chocolate Candy now has three wins beyond a mile and is seasoned with eight career starts but, as with most of the California-based horses, he has not yet been tested over dirt.
The Derby Dozen
1. Old Fashioned: Larry Jones keeps saying this son of Unbridled's Song "does everything the right way," and there is no disputing that right now. Has the speed, the pedigree, the versatility. Now he just has to carry it all over into his 3-year-old season.
2. Friesan Fire: News flash: Larry Jones is loaded. This son of A.P. Indy has already shown vast improvement in his first two starts and has a pedigree built for the classics.
3. Pioneerof the Nile: Looked tremendous overcoming a less than ideal trip to win the Robert B. Lewis. Love his closing kick, but the fact he is unproven on dirt keeps him from being in the No. 1 slot for now.
4. Capt. Candyman Can: Was impressed with the way he fought on for third despite being rank in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last November and was even more impressed with the way he settled en route to winning the Hutcheson Stakes. His sire (Candy Ride) was a freak, so there is no telling what this gelding might be capable of.
5. Desert Party: Has shown himself, so far, to be at the top of the Godolphin heap. Dug in gamely in winning the UAE 2000 Guineas over stablemates Regal Ransom and Vineyard Haven and looks like he could relish added distance.
6. Midshipman: He's the 2-year-old champion but he's still waiting for his season debut in March in Dubai. Has a lot to overcome but he also has a much better foundation than many of Sheikh Mohammed's past Derby hopefuls.
7. Stardom Bound: She will be in for a tough test should she go on to the Santa Anita Derby, but this girl has earned a shot. She had very little go her way in her Las Virgenes win, but she kicked on with authority when a seam finally did open up.
8. Beethoven: Has proven form over dirt, has won beyond a mile and has shown a clear affinity for the Churchill Downs surface. But a little more stamina in his pedigree would be nice.
9. Hello Broadway: Showed a ton of mettle in holding for second in the Hutcheson when he easily could have folded up after facing constant pressure on the front end. He needs to show he can relax if he turns up in the Fountain of Youth.
10. Haynesfield: The only knock on him so far has been a lack of competition, but that's not his fault. He has conquered every obstacle so far, but the Gotham Stakes will be his first real litmus test.
11. Chocolate Candy: Jockey Russell Baze said the son of Candy Ride was probably too fresh in the El Camino Real, but that didn't stop him from delivering a top effort.
12. The Pamplemousse: Jury is still out on whether his win in the San Rafael was a fluke or not, but his most recent work — five furlongs in :58.80 at Santa Anita on Feb. 11 — certainly had the look of a horse on the upswing.
The next dozen: Patena, Vineyard Haven, Giant Oak, West Side Bernie, Bear's Rocket, Break Water Edison, I Want Revenge, Regal Ransom, Flying Pegasus, Big Drama, Notonthesamepage, General Quarters.
■ General Quarters put his name on the radar with his upset in the Sam F. Davis Stakes, defeating the highly touted Free Country.