Smarty Jones Stakes has yet to Produce a Classic Winner
The first of four Kentucky Derby preps at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas goes on the Martin Luther King day holiday Monday, Jan. 15. The $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes is the newest Derby prep and offers 10-4-2-1 points to the top four finishers on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The 1 mile race drew a field of 7 with three strong favorites expected to get a bulk of the betting action.
Mourinho (3-2) is trained by Bob Baffert and Drayden Van Dyke rides the Super Saver colt while trainer Todd Pletcher and rider John Velazquez team up with Navistar (5-2). Steve Asmussen counters with both Comatant (2-1) and Tap Daddy (8-1), a pair of Scat Daddy colts.
Mourinho ships in from California after being scratched from the Sham Stakes. He won his debut in September impressively by more than 4 lengths with 3rd place finisher and favorite Instilled Regard 6-lengths back. Instill Regard won Saturday’s Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds. Mourinho has finished 2nd in a pair of races since including the Bob Hope (G3), and looks ready to get back in the winner’s circle trying two turns for the first time.
Navistar is 1-1 having finished 2nd in debut to highly-regarded Mask and breaking his maiden last month. Continued progression puts him in the mix. Combatant ran second to solid winner Greyvitos in the Springboard Mile at Remington last month, and he closed well in front of nine others but unable to catch the winner. A tactical, tracking running style and experience of last race against winners should serve him well in here.
The Smarty Jones Stakes has been run since 2008, but has yet to produce a Classic winner.
The Derby prep series at Oaklawn continues with the Southwest Stakes (G3) on February 19, the Rebel Stakes (G2) on March 17, and the Arkansas Derby (G1) on the final day of the meet, April 14. In 2004, Smarty Jones won all three on his way to also winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, earning him an honor of his own race four years later.