A deep field of nine three-year-olds will line up at Oaklawn Park on Monday for the first of four key Kentucky Derby preps at the Hot Springs, Arkansas racetrack.
The Smarty Jones is a Road to the Derby points race, with 10-4-2-1 points up for grabs to the top four finishers. The race kicks off the Derby trail in Hot Springs, with the $300,000 Southwest (G3) on Feb .16 and the $750,000 Rebel (G2) on March 14 also serving as preps.
The three races will produce contenders for the marquee event of the meeting, the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) which is slated for April 11.
Over the past two decades, winners of the Arkansas Derby have made a major impact on the Triple Crown, including Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Bodemeister, Curlin, and Victory Gallop.
The D. Wayne Lukas trained Mr. Z is the 2-1 morning line favorite and is seeking to win his first stakes win. The son of Malibu Moon has run second in four stakes–the Sanford (G3) and Saratoga Special (G3) at Saratoga, the Delta Jackpot (G3) at Delta Downs and most recently the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) where he was beaten just a head.
The winner of that race was Dortmund, who is currently the co-favorite for the Run for the Roses at Bovada at 10-1 with American Pharoah.
In the Delta Jackpot, the colt was beaten a nose by Ocho Ocho Ocho, who is currently listed at betting odds of 25-1 by Bovada.
Mr. Z is currently in sixth in the Derby points standings with 10. The leader is El Kabeir, winner of the Jerome (G3) in his last outing. The John Terranova trainee is currently at early Derby betting odds of 16-1 at Bovada.
Let’s head out to Hot Springs for Monday’s featured race of the day:
Oaklawn Park Race 8 The Smarty Jones (Post time 4:38 CT)
5 Hebbronville 9-2
3 Mr. Z 2-1
7 Bayerd 9-2
8 Private Prospect 6-1
Hebbronville is going to get overlooked on the tote after getting eased last out in the mud in the Nashua (G3) at Aqueduct. The colt bobbled coming out of the gate, was down along the inside and was eased in the final furlong. The runner up in the race was El Kabeir, who returned to win the Jerome Stakes (G3) in his next outing on Jan. 3. The $250,000 purchase flashed some ability in his first three career starts, breaking his maiden and then beating Alw-1 foes at Philly in his first two starts.
He then ran a game second to Blofeld in the Futurity (G2) in his stakes debut. In addition to Blofeld winning next out, the third place finisher Cinco Charlie came back to win the Lewis III at Laurel Park and the Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds in his next two outings. Looking for him to bounce back with a much better effort here.
Mr. Z is the logical one to beat but has now landed in the bottom half of the exacta in four stakes. Last out he dueled for the early lead and battled on gamely to finish third in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1), beaten a head and a nose. The winner of that race as the highly regarded Dortmund, who is getting plenty of early action in Derby betting.
Two back the D. Wayne Lukas was on the wrong end of a photo in the Delta Jackpot (G3) at Delta Downs, beaten a nose while four lengths clear of Far Right. The main knock is going to be his light price, which seems likely to be south of his 2-1 morning line. Lukas won this race in 2013 with Will Take Charge.
Bayerd is coming off a game win in the Springboard Mile in the mud at Remington Park in his first start going long. His previous stakes win came in the Kip Deville three back going six furlongs. The colt owns solid early and mid pace numbers and he should be right in the mix leaving the gate. On the downside, he is sporting the likely favorite seven pounds.
WIN: Hebbronville to win at 7-2 or better.
EXACTA: 3,5 / 3,5,7,8
TRIFECTA: 3,5 / 3,5,7,8 / 3,5,6,7,8
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