After rating in fourth early in the 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-olds, One Liner surged toward the lead off the far turn, where he engaged Petrov in a stretch duel before taking command at the sixteenth pole on his way to a 3 1/2-length win.
With the Southwest effort, WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, and SF Racing's One Liner secured his third clear victory in as many starts. Trained by Todd Pletcher, One Liner debuted with a maiden win sprinting at Saratoga Race Course in July. He then returned this season with a six-furlong allowance-optional claiming race score Jan. 26 at Gulfstream Park, which set the 3-year-old up for his two-turn and stakes debut in the Southwest under regular rider John Velazquez.
Carrying 122 pounds, the highest impost in the race, Uncontested and Channing Hill powered through a half-mile in :46.55 where Petrov, who chased in second, soon engaged the early leader. Stakes winner Warrior's Club and One Liner followed closely in third and fourth.
In the far turn, Petrov, who finished second in the Smarty Jones Stakes, battled Uncontested, the Smarty Jones winner, on the front end. Petrov managed to get past a fading Uncontested this time, taking the lead turning for home.
One Liner, racing just behind the top two, engaged Petrov in early stretch as those two turned things into a two-horse race, carrying their battle into deep stretch before One Liner prevailed.
One Liner, carrying 115 pounds, completed the 1 1/16-mile test in 1:41.85 and was followed home by Petrov, then Lookin At Lee and Silver Dust. Uncontested faded to sixth. Monday's field saw 12 starters as Cool Arrow was scratched.
"I'm very pleased with his race. He handled things very professionally," Pletcher said. "He shipped and settled in well. It looked like he finished strong and may have left something in reserve, which is encouraging."
With the win, One Liner secured 10 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby points system used to determined the field of the Louisville classic if more than 20 horses are entered. The second- through fourth-place finishers also were awarded points, 4-2-1 respectively.
Bred in Kentucky by Kingswood Farm, One Liner is the first starter out of the winning Cherokee Run mare Cayala. Pletcher said One Liner showed talent from the beginning. Now the connections will focus on his next step.
"He had shown a lot in his training before he even debuted at Saratoga, so we weren't surprised that he won at first asking," Pletcher said. "We had to give him some time after that race because of some baby issues, but he came back very good and has been training good, so we were confident in him. At this point I'd say everything is in play (for his next race). We'll discuss it with the connections. We still have time for two more races if that's the path he continues on."
The winner paid $8.80, $5.40, and $3.40 across the board while Petrov returned $6.60 and $4.60 to place and show. Lookin At Lee rallied to finish third and paid $3.40 to show.
Velazquez said One Liner settled nicely and eventually showed competitiveness.
"We knew he would come out running with this being his first time around two turns. I just wanted to save something for the end and I didn't want to rush him," Velazquez said. "He broke real well and once he got around the first turn he relaxed for me.
"By the time we got to the 3/8th pole I had to get aggressive with him and let him know it was time to get busy. Then he got aggressive and then he got competitive. From there, I knew he had it won."
J. S. B. Stable landed One Liner for $150,000 when he was offered as a short yearling at the 2015 Keeneland January Horses of All Ages sale. One Liner was consigned by his breeder Kingswood Farm, agent, at that sale.
Ron Moquett, trainer of Petrov, encouraged jockey Jose Ortiz to place Petrov closer to the pace. Moquett was impressed with how his horse responded.
"I'm proud of my horse. I just told him (Ortiz) the track was favoring speed today, so I knew we had to be closer. I told him that he's an awesome jockey and have confidence in your horse and do what you think it takes to win this race," Moquett said. "I was very surprised when I saw that he was that close, but I knew from the three-eighths pole home is when we start getting in gear, no matter where we're at."
Trainer Wayne Catalano would have liked to have seen more competitiveness from Uncontested.
"Everything went like we wanted it to, until the end there. He just didn't answer the call," Catalano said. "You've got to answer the call."