Monday, February 16, 2009

Old Fashioned Stays Perfect in Southwest

Despite a 71-day layoff and sitting off fast early fractions, Old Fashioned won his three-year-old debut in workman-like, well, fashion, defeating 10 overmatched foes at Oaklawn Park on Monday afternoon. Returning 50 cents on a dollar, Old Fashioned, covered the stretch-shortened mile course in 1:37.41.

With the win, Old Fashioned is a perfect four-for-four and a two-time graded stakes winner. At this point, the one chink in his formidable armor, is the slow final quarter mile time of 26 seconds on Monday. While dirt racing usually results in a slower final quarter mile compared to the first, quarter times of the Southwest were increasing slow - 22.5, 23.5, 25, and 26 (approximate times). In a bottom-level claiming race at 1 1/16 miles prior to Southwest, the 3/4 to 1 mile spilt time was a comparable 26 seconds. Oaklawn also appeared to favor those running at or the near the front of the pack.

Unless he takes a misstep in his tour-de-course, Old Fashioned is likely to exit Arkansas (whether he goes in both the Rebel and Arkansas Derby or just the Derby), as the Kentucky Derby favorite. It is not an unfavorable route for Derby contenders in recent years - Afleet Alex and Curlin both finished third at Kentucky, while the unfortunate Eight Belles finished second last year. And Smarty Jones connected Arkansas to Kentucky Derby winner dots in 2004 on his way to failed Triple Crown attempt. 

The story most likely to grab the front page headlines is that of Old Fashioned's trainer, Larry Jones. A self-made trainer, who became caught in the cross-hairs of  the 24/7 media cycle and the nonsensical PETA protests following the horrific fall of Eight Belles, Jones does not delight in the spotlight. He contemplated retirement last year and will find himself as a most uncomfortable favorite.

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