HOT SPRINGS, Arkansas — A six-day delay and a driving rainstorm did little to slow Far Right.
The emerging colt once again showed his final kick is the one to beat at Oaklawn Park, overcoming a three-wide group of leaders to win the $300,000 Southwest Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths Sunday.
Ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, Far Right followed his come-from-behind win in last month's Smarty Jones with another dramatic finish — once again pulling ahead of nemesis Mr. Z and holding off an unexpected late challenge from runner-up The Truth or Else.
Far Right has finished in the money in all but one of his races since last year, with a pair of wins in two starts as a 3-year-old. And each of those has come at the expense of the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Mr. Z, who was a slight pre-race favorite on Sunday.
This one, however, was even more stunning — with Far Right trailing by as many as 12 lengths before the hard-charging finish.
"I was just watching (Mr. Z), and I just didn't want to be on the outside of him," Smith said. "I just was patient and was hoping it would open up, and I was able to duck down on the fence. It didn't seem like the place to be today, but (Far Right) made it look good."
Mr. Z led for much of the race before faltering to third, with The Truth or Else finishing second. Far Right paid $7.40, $3.40 and $2.80, The Truth or Else returned $14 and $7.60, and Mr. Z $3.40 paid to show.
The race featured an 11-horse field after originally being slated for 12 participants before being postponed due to snow and cold temperatures on Monday.
With heavy rain falling for much of Sunday afternoon, including during the race, Far Right overcame sloppy conditions to finish the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:47.50.
Owned by Harry Rosenblum and Robert LaPenta, the colt earned 10 qualifying points for a spot in the Kentucky Derby on May 2. He earned $150,000 for the win, with The Truth or Else taking $60,000 for second and Mr. Z earning $30,000.
Mr. Z finished a spot ahead of Far Right during a meeting late last year at the Delta Jackpot Stakes, but Far Right turned the tables with a late win over Mr. Z in the mile Smarty Jones on Jan. 19. Mr. Z led by 2 ½-lengths late in that race before veering out sharply to let Far Right win by 1 3/4 lengths.
A slight pre-race favorite on Sunday, Mr. Z once again held the lead for much of the Southwest, though Far Right began to charge on the inside on the backside and final turn of the Grade 3 race.
"I just knew our horse was strong, and he gets stronger at the end of races," Far Right trainer Ron Moquett said. "I just wanted him to get clear; I didn't care where he went from there."
With Mr. Z facing a challenge from The Truth or Else on the outside, after the Toby Keith-owned Hillbilly Royalty faded, Far Right sprinted along the rail for the win — with The Truth or Else narrowly finishing ahead of Mr. Z.
Lukas said Mr. Z is "doubtful" to run in the Rebel because American Pharoah — also owned by Zayat Stables — is scheduled to run in the 1 1/16-mile race.
"He ran really well considering the conditions," Mr. Z jockey Corey Nakatani said. "I think once he gets on a surface that doesn't have all the weather going on, it will move him forward. He's very talented, and next out, weather permitting, things will go his way."
Oaklawn's series of Kentucky Derby prep races continues with the $750,000 Rebel Stakes on March 14 and the $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 11.