Odds-on choice Greater Good trailed the field much of the way but rallied while wide in the stretch to tag pacesetter Munificence in the final strides and win the $100,000 Southwest Stakes for 3-year-olds under showers at Oaklawn Park Saturday.
The well-timed victory, by three-quarters of a length, was accomplished in front of 21,932 with little more than a vigorous hand ride from John McKee, who has been aboard Greater Good for all of his six starts. The final time for the one-mile Southwest, the first of Oaklawn's major prep races for the April 16 Arkansas Derby (gr. II), was a slow 1:39 on a wet fast track.
Greater Good, a Kentucky family-bred son of Intidab
who won the Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II) at Churchill Downs in his final start as a 2-year-old, jumped in the air soon after the start and trailed the field going into the clubhouse turn.
Ten lengths behind the leader Munificence after fractions of :23 2/5 and :47 1/5, Greater Good, accustomed to coming from off the pace, remained last going into the final turn. He began to pick it up coming off the turn following a six-furlong split of 1:12 3/5. The bay colt was in full flight for the wire while five wide at the head of the stretch.
"I would have liked a better start and would have liked to have been closer when we came out of the first turn," McKee said. "I was urging him a little at that point so that we weren't too far behind. I had to use him at the half pole so that I was in contention by the quarter pole."
Delta Downs shipper Munificence, who was ridden by Calvin Borel, held on for second after drifting out a bit in the stretch, 1 1/2 lengths in front of Humor At Last and Jeremy Rose.
The Southwest was the first race won last year by Smarty Jones in his march to victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness (both gr. I), a path Oaklawn trainer Robert Holthus hopes to be able to trace.
Greater Good, who also won the Kentucky Cup Juvenile (gr. III) at Turfway Park as a 2-year-old, has now captured four of his half-dozen starts while earning $286,275 for owner and co-breeder Lewis G. Lakin. Greater Good was produced by the dam Gather The Clan (General Assembly).
It sets him up perfectly for a summit meeting with star 3-year-olds Rockport Harbor and Afleet Alex in Oaklawn's $250,000 Rebel Stakes (gr. III) at 1 1/16 miles March 19.
He paid $3, $2.40 and $2.20. Munificence returned $3.20 and $2.20. Humor At Last was $2.20 to show.
Copy My Notes, Major League, Silver Haze, and My Parade followed.
The victory capped doubles for Holthus and McKee. Cole Norman, en route to his fifth straight Oaklawn training title, combined with jockey Jamie Theriot for a three-bagger on the 10-race program.