With a large number of trainers expressing interest in running their 3-year-olds in the $75,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park March 2, the track's racing secretary, Pat Pope, is considering spilling the race into two divisions. The Southwest was split on one previous occasion, in 1972.
As of Saturday, the field stands at 13, with several horses considered on the fence.
"I expect it to split," said trainer Bob Holthus, who conditions likely Southwest favorite Cojet. "I'd rather it split than have 14 or so starters."
Among those expressing interest in the one-mile fixture is the promising Frank Brothers trainee Clergy.
"Clergy will work three-quarters Saturday at Fair Grounds," Brothers said Friday. "If all goes well, he'll van to Hot Springs on Wednesday or Thursday."
In that Saturday work, Clergy went six furlongs in 1:15, after splits of :49 1/5 and 1:02 1/5.
"The jock was just sitting on him," said a track clocker. "The horse went very easily, and galloped out strong."
The son of Pulpit has won both of his previous starts and will be racing around two turns for the first time should he ship up from his Fair Grounds base for the Southwest.
"Of course, two-turns is always a concern for a young horse, but this is a horse who seems to want to go long, and there's nothing in his pedigree to say he can't," Brothers said. "If he's going to the next step, he's got to start now, and the Southwest is a good place to start."
Trainer Steve Asmussen may start three, Mountain Valley Stakes winner Richest Half, Black Gold Handicap winner Private Emblem, and Interminable Gold.
Mountain Valley runner-up Cojet is scheduled to work Sunday. Since the three-quarters of a length loss to Richest Half in the stakes race, Cojet has returned to romp in an Oaklawn allowance race while earning a triple-digit Beyer speed figure.
Others pointing for the race include: Bay Monster, King Zonic, Paloma Parilla, Fisher Station, Rylstone, and Explosive Truth.
Rylstone worked at Oaklawn Saturday, putting in a five-furlong work in 1:01 3/5 for trainer Lynn Whiting. Rylstone (Mecke--Appealing High, by Valid Appeal) won the Manila Stakes as juvenile, defeating U S S Tinosa by three lengths on an Arlington Park turf course labeled good. After earning his first career victory in that stakes race, he was winless in two subsequent races as a juvenile, including a sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. In his first start at three, he was a three length winner of an allowance race on the Fair Ground's turf course.