Owner Rick Porter leads Southwest Stakes winner Old Fashioned and jockey Ramon Dominguez into the winners circle.

Owner Rick Porter leads Southwest Stakes winner Old Fashioned and jockey Ramon Dominguez into the winners circle.

Coady Photography

Southwest Suits Old Fashioned

Top Derby contender pulls away late to win the Southwest Stakes in his 3yo debut.

He had to work a little harder than the typical 2-5 shot has to, but Old Fashioned pulled clear late and came out on top in his 2009 debut Feb. 16 with a 3¼- length victory over a stubborn Silver City in the $250,000 Southwest Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park.

High atop most Derby contender lists, including Steve Haskin’s Derby Dozen on bloodhorse.com, Fox Hill Farm’s Old Fashioned won for the fourth time in as many starts. Old Fashioned’s sophomore debut was perhaps the most eagerly awaited of the season and he didn’t disappoint.

Trainer Larry Jones had the son of Unbridled's Song—Collect Call, by Meadowlake, raring to go off a series of strong works including three straight bullet moves. After getting five furlongs in :58 4/5 from the gate at Fair Grounds, Old Fashioned was shipped to Arkansas where he went a half-mile in :48 2/5 Feb. 5, and then Feb. 11 went five furlongs in 1:00 2/5.

Under Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm’s red and white silks, Old Fashioned traveled the one-mile distance of the Southwest in 1:37.41.

Breaking sharply in the 11-horse field, Old Fashioned, under Ramon Dominguez, ceded the early lead to Clarence Scharbauer Jr.’s speedy Silver City, who moved up the rail from post 3.

The two quickly separated themselves from the rest of the field and zipped through an opening quarter-mile in :22.47 and a half-mile in :45.98. Silver City, also by Unbridled’s Song and a winner of three straight, held a length advantage on Old Fashioned down the backstretch.

As they approached the far turn, Dominguez asked his mount and they traveled up to get on even terms with Silver City after getting six furlongs in 1:11.04. Old Fashioned got a slight advantage, but had to work hard to separate himself from his rival. The seven-furlong split of 1:24.23 means the final furlong was run in :13.18.

West Point Thoroughbred’s Buzzin and Dreamin, a recent maiden winner who stalked the leaders throughout, was a length back in third, just holding off Flat Out  by a neck. Flat Out rallied after breaking behind the field.

The winner, who opened at 1-9, paid $3, $2.20, and $2.20. Silver City, who was the 3-1 second choice in the Southwest, returned $2.80 and $2.80. Buzzin and Dreamin paid $8.80 to show. The 5-3 exacta paid $7.80.

Old Fashioned, a $800,000 Keeneland September sale yearling, was three-for-three last year and was a top Derby contender off his easy victory in the nine-furlong Remsen Stakes (gr. II) last November at Aqueduct. He was bred in Kentucky by Rod and Lorraine Rodriquez.

Next up for 3-year-olds at Oaklawn is the March 14 Rebel Stakes (gr. II), worth $300,000 and run at 1 1/16 miles, and then the $1-million Arkansas Derby (gr. II) at 1 1/8 miles April 11.

The road to the classics through Arkansas has been a beaten path of late. Smarty Jones  (2004) and Afleet Alex (2005) used prep races at Oaklawn Park to both land two-thirds of the Triple Crown. Smarty Jones won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness (both gr. I), while Afleet Alex won the Preakness and Belmont Stakes (gr. I). Curlin, winner of the Arkansas Derby in 2007, went on to win the Preakness, but lost the Belmont in a photo finish with Rags to Riches. Curlin  was named Horse of the Year for 2007 and 2008.