by SCOTT SHAPIRO

The Southwest Stakes (G3) winner has not hit the wire first in the “Run for the Roses” since Smarty Jones did in 2004, but a strong group of three-year-olds in search of 10 qualifying points on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” break from the gate at approximately 5:10 local time in the traditional Presidents’ Day feature at Oaklawn Park.

After an easy front-running victory in the Smarty Jones last month, #4 Mourinho faces a much tougher task as he attempts to make it a perfect 2 for 2 to start his 2018 campaign. The son of Super Saver has been installed as the 2-1-morning line favorite for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, but I have concerns based on stamina and probable race shape.

Mourinho broke his maiden in dominating fashion at Santa Anita last September and followed that win on debut up with a pair of runner-up finishes in one-turn two-year-old stakes events. Baffert gave the $625,000 OBS March 2017 purchase a two-month freshening before his wire-to-wire effort last month in the aforementioned Smarty Jones.

Mourinho had things his way on the front end versus a modest bunch in his first try going a route of ground, but that is unlikely to occur on Monday given the presence of runners that possess early zip drawn to both his inside and outside. I expect the chalk to have to work hard in the early stages and have little left for the stretch drive.

At a short price I will take my chances against Mourinho in the Southwest.

#2 Sporting Chance ran second in his first career start at Churchill Downs last June before rattling off two consecutive victories, including a neck win in the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas brings him into the Southwest off a five-month freshening, but the son of Tiznow appears to be doing well based on a series of strong drills over the Oaklawn main track. Drawing inside the other speeds is likely to force the hand of Luis Saez and lead to an honest early pace in this colt’s first try going more than seven furlongs.

Sporting Chance should offer better value than Mourinho and is not without a significant chance of winning, but I prefer a runner that will be coming from off the pace in the 2018 Southwest.

#1 My Boy Jack raced primarily over the turf as a two-year-old for trainer Keith Desormeaux, but tried the main track for the first time since his debut last month in the Grade 3 Sham.

The son of Creative Cause was up much closer than he prefers in the Sham due to a modest early tempo and could do no better than a well beaten third to McKinzie in the one mile event over the dirt.  However, things should set up much more favorably for the $20,000 Keeneland September 2016 purchase in Monday’s Southwest.

I expect jockey Kent Desormeaux to grab a hold of the Kentucky bred after the break, save ground on the backstretch and run this group down at a nice price to earn his second career win.

My Boy Jack is listed at 12-1 on the morning line, but anything 7-1 or better is good enough for me.

#10 Combatant chased the slow pace in the Smarty Jones last month and finished second to Mourinho. The $320,000 son of Scat Daddy gets off the rail after two straight starts drawn to the inside and should sit a great trip off of the early leaders. If jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. can avoid significant ground loss from his outside draw he should be in the mix late.

$5 Road to Damascus and #8 Zing Zang are long shots that appear a cut below, but have a chance to pass a number of tiring rivals late. They can be used at a price in the backend of the exotics.

Here is how I will wager on the 53rd running of the Southwest Stakes:

$50 Win 1 (7-1 or higher)

$1 Trifecta Key

1 with 2+5+8+10 = $12

$1 Trifecta Wheel

2+10 with 1 with 2+4+5+8+10 = $8

$5 Exacta Wheel

1 with 2+5+8+10 = $20

Total Budget: $90

My Boy Jack photo courtesy of Benoit