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The Southwest Stakes is a thoroughbred horse race held at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs (Garland County) restricted to three-year-old colts and geldings. The Southwest is the first major step in Oaklawn’s series for horses aspiring to run in the $1 million Arkansas Derby and subsequent Triple Crown races (the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes make up the Triple Crown); the Rebel Stakes is the second major step, with the Arkansas Derby being the third. The Southwest is traditionally run on Presidents Day in February.
Stakes races—so called because of the stake, or entry fee, owners must pay—are rated grade one (the highest), grade two, or grade three based on the size of the purse. (The purse is the prize money that is divided among the horses competing in the race based on their finish, with the winner receiving sixty percent of the total purse.) The Southwest has been a grade-three race since 2008. The Arkansas Derby is grade one, and the Rebel Stakes is grade two. Prior to the 2016 racing season, the purse of the Southwest was bumped from $300,000 to $500,000.
The race’s original distance was six furlongs, or three-quarters of a mile, until being increased to one mile in 1984. The distance was increased to its current one and one-sixteenth miles in 2013. M-S Stable’s Call Hy won the first edition of the Southwest in 1959. The race was not held again until 1962 and became a permanent part of Oaklawn’s stakes schedule in 1968 after a five-year absence.
The race’s most famous winning horse was Smarty Jones, who went on to win Oaklawn’s Rebel Stakes and the Arkansas Derby, as well as the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes on his way to being named champion three-year-old male horse in 2004. In winning all three races in Oaklawn’s series and then the Kentucky Derby, Smarty Jones earned a $5 million bonus. Four other horses have swept the Southwest, Rebel Stakes, and Arkansas Derby: Promised City (1975), Bold Ego (1981), Demons Begone (1987), and Lawyer Ron (2006).
Trainer Bob Holthus holds the most victories in the race, with five. His first winner came in 1988 with Proper Reality, who finished fourth in the Rebel Stakes but rebounded to win the Arkansas Derby. He also won the race with Afternoon Affair, Son of Rocket, Greater Good, and Lawyer Ron. As of 2016, jockeys Rafael Bejarano and Larry Synder have each won the race three times.
The race has received so many entries that it has been split into two divisions three times in its history, the most recent being in 2012 when Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert swept both divisions with Secret Circle and Castaway.
Super Ninety Nine
Secret Circle (First Division)
Castaway (Second Division)
Denis of Cork
Private Emblem (First Division)
Paloma Parilla (Second Division)
Son of Rocket
Say I’m Smart
Be A Prospect
Our Future King
Parlez Encore (First Division)
Billy Rogell (Second Division)
Love That Dollar
Ruler in Gold
For additional information:
A Century of Excitement, Oaklawn 1904–2004. Hot Springs, AR: Oaklawn Park, 2004.
Oaklawn Racing and Gaming. http://www.oaklawn.com/ (accessed March 8, 2016).
Oaklawn Racing and Gaming
Last Updated 6/19/2017
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