HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — This time, the heavy favorite came through for trainer Larry Jones.
Old Fashioned won the Southwest Stakes on Monday, passing Silver City on the second turn to remain undefeated in the first of Oaklawn Park's three big Kentucky Derby prep races. The victory was a sweet one for Jones, who trained Hard Spun when that favored horse finished fourth in this race two years ago.
"That was a tough day," Jones said. "It was just something you had to swallow. ... Thank goodness this one lived up to the billing and all went well."
Hard Spun's loss in 2007 was a fluke — the horse ended up second in the Kentucky Derby that year. Old Fashioned has shown similar potential, winning his first four starts. The colt won a pair of races in November by a combined 22¾ lengths. This was his 2009 debut.
About 20 minutes before the race, Old Fashioned's odds were posted at 1-9 and almost every other entry was considered a long shot. Six other horses — more than half of the 11-horse field — were posted at 60-1 or longer.
"He can make you feel like you're invincible," Jones said.
Old Fashioned went off at 1-2, broke immediately toward the front and then settled in behind Silver City on the backstretch. Old Fashioned, with Ramon Dominguez aboard, made his move with ease to win by 3¼ lengths in the $250,000 race.
Old Fashioned covered a mile on the fast track in 1 minute, 37.4 seconds, equaling the time posted by Smarty Jones when he won the Southwest in 2004. The fractions were fast — the first quarter-mile in 22.47 seconds and a half-mile in 45.98.
"Down the backside I knew we were going fast but it didn't feel like he was rushing to keep up with the leader," Dominguez said. "When I caught up to the leader at the top of the stretch he dug in and finished strong. I hope that stretch run did him some good."
Silver City (7-2) held on gamely for second and could be a Kentucky Derby contender.
Buzzin And Dreamin (64-1) was third.
Oaklawn's next two big Derby preps are the Rebel next month and the Arkansas Derby in April. That's the same path Smarty Jones took in 2004 en route to a Kentucky Derby victory. Jones wouldn't make any promises, but Old Fashioned's camp seems keen to keep the horse in Arkansas.
"We don't want to move," Jones said. "I don't think there's a better series in the country to get you ready for the Derby."
Evita Argentina beats boys in San Vicente Stakes
ARCADIA, Calif. — Don't cry for this lady.
Evita Argentina became the first filly in 62 years to win the $150,000 San Vicente Stakes, beating the boys by a length Monday at Santa Anita.
Sent off as the 2-1 wagering favorite in the field of 10, Evita Argentina and jockey Garrett Gomez came flying down the middle of the track to hold off Leedstheway.
Evita Argentina ran 7 furlongs in 1:24.30, becoming the third filly in the race's 68-year history to win the Kentucky Derby prep for 3-year-olds.
With several speed horses in the field, the Kentucky-bred filly had ample pace to set up her usual come-from-behind move. Evita Argentina was last in the early going and then went four horses wide in the stretch.
"The track is soggy all over, but at the three-eighths pole, it seemed a little deeper and she got off the bridle with me, so I really had to work on her to get her to running again," Gomez said. "She was able to wear them down, but I know she can run even better than that."
Gato Go Win was 1¼ lengths farther back in third. He and Leedstheway are both trained by Jeff Mullins.
Trainer Bob Baffert's duo of Ventana and Wall Street Wonder finished in a dead-heat for fourth.
Winning trainer John Sadler wasn't feeling well and stayed home, leaving assistant Larry Benavidez to saddle Evita Argentina, who earned her third career stakes win.
"I was pretty confident because this filly is going to give you her run no matter what," Benavidez said. "Garrett cut the corner perfect. It was a great ride by him."
Benavidez said the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks on March 14 in New Orleans might be next for the filly.