The Southwest Stakes is run annually at Oaklawn Park Racetrack in Hot Springs, Arkansas in mid-February. Although the distance of the race has changed over the years, since 2013 it has been run over 1 1/16 miles on the dirt course, and carries a purse of $500,000.

It is rated as a Grade 3 stakes race, and is open to both male and female horses age three. For the past several years, it has been included as part of the Kentucky Derby qualifying series of races, with the winner of the race awarded 10 points toward a spot in the Derby starting gate the first Saturday of May.  

Southwest Stakes Picks

As one of the earliest major stakes races of the year, the Southwest often draws a diverse field of pretenders and contenders, which means there are often several live longshot choices to consider when you make your Southwest Stakes picks with an online racebook. 

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Southwest Stakes Racing Tips

In 2016, Suddenbreakingnews came from off the pace to win the Southwest Stakes at odds of 4-1, claiming the first (and so far only) graded-stakes win of his career. He would go on to compete in all three of the three-year-old Oaklawn stakes races, finishing fifth in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes and second in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, to set up his bid for the Triple Crown.

In the Arkansas Derby, he finished 1 1/4 lengths behind a double-digit longshot in the form of Creator, who two months later would go on to track down Destin in the shadow of the wire to win the Belmont Stakes by a nose at odds of 16-1. 

Prior to 2013, the Southwest Stakes was run at the distance of one mile, and between 2010 and 2013 was dominated by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who won the race four times, including both versions of the 2012 event, when the race was run in two divisions. Interestingly, Baffert has not won the Southwest in the ensuing years since the distance was increased to 1 1/16 miles. 

Since the increase in racing distance, the Southwest has seen a mixed bag of winners using different racing styles and different prep routes to the winner’s circle, making the race something of a handicapping puzzle based on past results. Suddenbreakingnews was a late runner who took advantage of a fast first-half-mile to come from dead last and sweep seven horses wide on a track rated as Good to win by 2 1/2 lengths. The year prior to that, Far Right also came from off the pace – although he had raced much closer to the leaders throughout – to win by 3/4 of a length as the second favorite in the betting. In 2014, Tapiture was never more than a half-length off the lead before taking command at the 3/4 mile mark and cruising to a four-length win at odds of 5-1. And in the first year of the 1 1/16 mile distance, the even-money favorite, Super Ninety Nine, led from gate to wire, and demolished the field by more than 11 lengths. Behind him, however, came a trio of longshots at odds of 23-1, 60-1 and 49-1, producing a $1 trifecta payout of $781.60, and a $1 superfecta payout of more than $4500.  

None of the recent past winners of the Southwest Stakes would go on to finish in the money in of that year’s Triple Crown races, and in fact, of the four, only Tapiture has managed another graded-stakes win in his racing career since. The last horse to win the Southwest and then go on to win the Kentucky Derby is Smarty Jones, who turned the trick in 2004.