HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) Donnie Von Hemel had two concerns about Suddenbreakingnew leading into the Southwest Stakes, namely that the race was the horse's first of the year and his 13th position out of the starting gate.
After a slow start, the prized colt put his trainer's mind at ease on Monday - using a wide and powerful late charge to win the $500,000 Kentucky Derby prep race at Oaklawn Park.
The win is the first in the Southwest for Von Hemel and jockey Luis Quinonez, and it earns the colt 10 qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby.
And it only happened after a near-disastrous start that had Suddenbreakingnews fall far back of the leaders before going seven wide and charging down the stretch for the victory.
''That's the good thing about Luis,'' Von Hemel said. ''You can have a plan going in there, but it doesn't always work the way you want it to. He's got the experience to go ahead and make things happen.''
Monday's race was only the sixth of his career for Suddenbreakingnews.
Any relative inexperience didn't hamper the colt after its slow start, and he continued a streak of finishing either first or second in each of his career starts. He was narrowly defeated in his previous race, the Springboard Mile at Remington Park in December, but that race was in sloppy conditions.
On a track that was wet from overnight rain but in good condition, Suddenbreakingnews showed a tremendous closing kick in the 1 1/16th-mile race - finishing in 1.45.14 while paying $10.20, $4.40 and $3.20.
Whitmore paid $4.80 and $3.80 for finishing second, and American Dubai $7.40 for third.
Morning favorite Collected started on the rail and finished fourth in his attempt to win a record-tying fifth Southwest Stakes for trainer Bob Baffert. The colt was near the leaders on the final turn, but was unable to match the closing kick of Suddenbreakingnews.
''You're in the gate forever,'' Collected assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes said. ''But the bottom line is you've got to get out there and run and he didn't.''
The 14-horse field equaled the largest in race history, and it was American Dubai and Siding Spring who set the pace until the final turn. As the duo faded, Whitmore briefly surged into the lead on the home stretch before Quinonez eased his winning colt past the field and into the lead for good.
Suddenbreakingnews earned $300,000 for the victory, while Whitmore earned $100,000 and American Dubai $50,000.
The victory for the Samuel Henderson-owned Suddenbreakingnews was a significant step toward earning a spot in the Kentucky Derby on May 7, and Von Hemel said the colt's next race would likely be the $900,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn on March 19.
''I think that's the most likely next race,'' Von Hemel said. ''There's so many variables in horse racing that you try not to get ahead of yourself, but if all things are good, I would imagine that would be our next start.''