(Villainous wins at Oaklawn Park / Coady Photography & Courtesy of Oaklawn Park)

From the Oaklawn Park Media Team:

Villainous completed his major preparations for the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds Feb. 17 with a workout in company Sunday morning at Oaklawn for trainer Jeremiah Englehart.

Under 2019 Oaklawn riding champion David Cohen, Villainous breezed with stablemate Two Point Oh over a fast track following the second surface renovation break. Villainous, along the rail, edged away from his workmate approaching the wire and was credited with a half-mile in :49. Clockers caught Villainous’ final quarter-mile in :24 and galloping out 5 furlongs in 1:02.80.

A son of Grade 1 winner and millionaire Wicked Strong, Villainous broke his maiden opening day, Jan. 24, in his 2020 and two-turn debut under two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. Englehart said before training hours Sunday morning that Cohen will have the mount on Villainous in the 1 1/16-mile Southwest, Oaklawn’s second of four Kentucky Derby points races. Villainous has started only one other time, finishing eighth in a maiden special weights sprint Dec. 7 at Aqueduct.

“Just reminds me of a horse that’s not at his best yet,” Englehart said. “Whether it’s this next race that will get him there or two races, three races down the road, I’m not sure. He’s just a horse that seems like he wants to be a good horse.”

Villainous, who is owned by Harold Lerner, represented Englehart’s first career Oaklawn winner. The New York-based Englehart is wintering at Oaklawn for the first time this year. Two Point Oh, a 3-year-old maiden, also received :49 for a half-mile.

Other locally based horses pointing for the Southwest include Gold Street for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and Answer In for trainer Brad Cox. Gold Street was a front-running winner of the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 24. The 1-mile Smarty Jones is Oaklawn’s first Kentucky Derby points race. Answer In will be making his first start since finishing second in the $400,000 Springboard Mile Dec. 15 at Remington Park.

Answer In worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.40 Sunday morning. The Dialed In gelding breezed with stablemate and Southwest candidate Wells Bayou, who was also credited with 1:01.40. Wells Bayou was a sharp front-running first-level allowance winner Jan. 26 in his 3-year-old and two-turn debut.

American Butterfly, the first Oaklawn starter by 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, is also under consideration for the Southwest, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said before training hours Sunday morning. American Butterfly, in his 3-year-old debut, finished second, beaten a head, in a first-level allowance sprint Feb. 2. Lukas cited an encouraging speed rating for considering the Southwest. Ragozin Sheets, in this case, use factors such as weight, wind direction and ground lost, saved or lost to interpret performance.

“I think I might try the Southwest,” Lukas said. “He got a 6 on the Rag Sheets the other day. That’s pretty good. If he duplicates that, he’d get a piece of the Southwest. I don’t know if he can or not. We’ll see.”

The Southwest closed Feb. 6 with 72 nominations. Post positions will be drawn Friday. The Southwest will offer 17 points to the top four finishers – 10-4-2-1, respectively – toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby.

Oaklawn’s Kentucky Derby points series continues with the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14 and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 11. Omaha Beach won the second division of the Rebel and the Arkansas Derby last year en route to a runner-up finish in voting for champion 3-year-old male.

(Three Technique / Photo Courtesy of Oaklawn Park)

Rebel Yell

Trainer Jeremiah Englehart reiterated Sunday morning that Three Technique would make his next start in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds March 14.

Three Technique, in his 3-year-old, stakes and two-turn debut, finished second in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Jan. 24. The 1-mile Smarty Jones – Oaklawn’s first of four Kentucky Derby points races – is a steppingstone to the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 17. Oaklawn’s final two Kentucky Derby points races are the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14 and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 11.

Englehart said he likes the timing of the Rebel, noting Three Technique made four starts as a 2-year-old in advance of the Smarty Jones, which marked his first race outside New York.

“I felt like it might be a little too much for him to do all four,” Englehart said. “I think giving him a break between the Smarty Jones and the Rebel was the right thing to do and then go for the Rebel and, hopefully, the Arkansas Derby if he’s good enough.”

Three Technique, who is owned by two-time Super Bowl winning coach Bill Parcells, returned to the work tab Saturday morning, breezing a half-mile in :48 over a fast track under exercise rider Marquel Lemon. The time ranked ninth of 78 recorded at the distance. Englehart said Three Technique breezed with stablemate Wendell Fong, a stakes-winning 4-year-old colt.

“He worked really well,” Englehart said of Three Technique. “I was actually really happy. Came out of the work well and seems like he came out of that race really well. All things are still a go, probably, for the Rebel.”

Three Technique, a son of millionaire Mr Speaker, has been favored in all five career starts and has never finished worse than second.

(Jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

Finish Lines

Six-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. had a triple Saturday to regain the lead in the standings. Santana won the second race aboard Portion ($7.60) for trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs, the sixth race aboard favored La Renoleta ($4.40) for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussenand the eighth race, the $125,000 King Cotton Stakes for older sprinters, aboard Share the Upside ($6.80) for Asmussen. An Argentine-bred import, La Renoleta remained unbeaten in five career starts in her American debut. She won the allowance race by 9 ¾ lengths. The triple gave Santana 11 victories at the meet – one more than defending champion David Cohen – and 496 in his Oaklawn career. The King Cotton marked the 85th career Oaklawn stakes victory for Asmussen, who has led the local standings 10 times since 2007. … Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer had his first winner of the meeting in Saturday’s ninth race with favored Sunny Dale, who broke her maiden by five lengths under Martin Garcia. … Millionaire Bravazo, just after the track opened Sunday morning, worked 5 furlongs in :59.40 for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas in advance of the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses Feb. 17. Lukas said Joe Talamo will ride Bravazo in the 1 1/16-mile race. … Exulting, a recent arrival for trainer Mike Maker, is also pointing for the Razorback, owner Mike Hui of Little Rock, Ark., said in a text message Sunday afternoon. Maker and Hui teamed to win the inaugural $250,000 Oaklawn Mile last year with Exulting, who worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.60 Saturday morning. … After working a half-mile in :48.20 Sunday morning, trainer Robertino Diodoro said multiple stakes winner Pioneer Spirit “most likely” will be entered in the Razorback. Pioneer Spirit won the second division of the $100,000 Fifth Season Stakes Jan. 25. … Unbeaten Ring Leader (2 for 2) will make her stakes debut in Saturday’s $125,000 Dixie Belle for 3-year-old filly sprinters, trainer Mac Robertson said Sunday morning. Ring Leader, a 5 ¼-length entry-level allowance winner Jan. 24, worked 5 furlongs in :59 Sunday morning. … Robertson said multiple stakes winner Amy’s Challenge is pointing for the $125,000 Spring Fever Stakes for older female sprinters Feb. 29. Amy’s Challenge won the 5 ½-furlong race in 2019. … Gold Standard worked a half-mile in :50 Sunday morning in advance of a scheduled start in the $200,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. Gold Standard is trained by Brad Cox.