The $150,000 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park officially gets the Derby Trail underway in Hot Springs, Arkansas, the first of three key preps for the Run for the Roses.
The Smarty Jones offers up 10-4-2-1 points to the top four finishers toward entry into the Kentucky Derby (G1), and serves as a prep for the $900,00 Rebel Stakes (G2) on March 19 and the marquee race of the meeting, the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 16.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will saddle the morning line favorite Toews On Ice (9-5), runner up to Mor Spirit in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) in his last outing on Dec. 19.
I had to take a double take as Baffert has never won the Smarty Jones. He has won the Rebel five times and has saddled the winner in the Arkansas Derby twice.
Last year’s Triple Crown winner American Pharoah used the Rebel and Arkansas Derby as his last preps before the first Saturday of May.
Martin Garcia has the call on Toews On Ice, who is named after Chicago Blackhawks hockey player Jonathan Toews, currently the leader in the NHL in goals scored.
Among his main foes on Monday is Synchrony, who makes his stakes debut in the race. “We’re happy and ready to go,” his trainer Donnie Von Hemel said. “I think looking at him as a yearling, he looked like a horse with a lot of potential.”
The William Fires trained Discreetness (6-1) figures to take some betting action. The colt rallied to get up and win the Springboard Mile at Remington Park in his last start.
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
8 Synchrony 9-2
4 Toews On Ice 9-5
6 Discreetness 6-1
10 Shogood 12-1
Synchrony takes on stakes company for the first time here for the Von Hemel barn off a game head win against Alw-1 optional claimers in his first start against winners. He broke his maiden two back at Keeneland going seven furlongs. That race has been productive, with three others coming out of that race to graduate next out. The colt is bred to be a good one, by Tapit out of the stakes winner Brownie Points ($951,230). The colt has move forward in each start and should move forward in his first trip around two turns.
Toews On Ice dueled for the early lead and could not match strides late with the winner Mor Spirit, beaten 1 ¼ lengths for the top spot. That stretch at Los Al is very long and here we are going to the first finish line, which should suit him well. The Bob Baffert barn is always tough when he ships into Hot Springs, winging 13 races form just 28 starters dating back five years. He has never won this race but has won the Rebel Stakes (G2) here in five of the last six years. This colt will be very tough here but likely is going to get bet down from his 9-5 morning line.
Discreetness made a good late rally to win the Springboard Mile last out in the slop going a mile at Remington Park. Two back he made a mild late run to finish fourth in the Street Sense. The winner Mor Tom won Saturday’s Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds. He makes his third start of his current form cycle and should get some pace to run at.
WIN: #8 to win at 7-2 or better.
EXACTA: 4,8 / 4,6,8,10
TRIFECTA: 4,8 / 4,6,8,10 / 3,4,6,8,10
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