(Caddo River / Photo Courtesy of Oaklawn Park)
From the Oaklawn Park Media Team:
No owner has won all four of what are now Oaklawn’s Kentucky Derby points races. But, one will have that chance Friday when trainer Brad Cox sends out Caddo River for John Ed Anthony’s Shortleaf Stable in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes, a 1-mile event that highlights Oaklawn’s opening-day nine-race program.
Probable post time for the Smarty Jones, which goes as the eighth race, is 4:11 p.m. (Central). First post is 12:30 p.m. There is a 40-percent chance of showers Friday morning before skies clear and afternoon temperatures climb to the mid-50s, according to weatherunderground.com.
Caddo River is among seven horses entered in the Smarty Jones, which will offer 17 points (10-4-2-1) to the top four finishers, respectively, toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. Oaklawn’s Kentucky Derby points series continues with the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15, $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) March 13 and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 10.
No owner has dominated Oaklawn’s Triple Crown prep series like Anthony, 81, a Hot Springs lumberman who rose to acclaim in the late 1970s when his horses ran under the Loblolly Stable banner. Anthony hasn’t had Smarty Jones starter since the race was inaugurated in 2008, but he’s won the Southwest a record three times (1984, 1987 and 1991), Rebel a record five times (1980, 1984, 1987, 1992 and 1993) and the Arkansas Derby a record three times (1980, 1987 and 1992).
Many of Anthony’s best horses were named for points in Arkansas, including Cox’s Ridge, the owner’s first nationally prominent runner; Temperence Hill, the country’s champion 3-year-old male of 1980 after winning the Rebel, Arkansas Derby and Belmont Stakes; Prairie Bayou, the country’s champion 3-year-old male of 1993 after winning the Preakness; and Pine Bluff, the 1992 Arkansas Derby and Preakness winner.
Caddo River, by 2007 Kentucky Derby runner-up Hard Spun, will be making his two-turn and stakes debut after a blowout Nov. 15 maiden score at Churchill Downs to close his 2020 campaign. A homebred for Anthony, the colt is named for a tributary that begins about 55 miles southwest of Hot Springs.
“The Caddo River is a beautiful stream,” Anthony said. “I keep a long list of potential names and this was a promising horse. I thought the name fit very well. That was the reason I chose it. I can’t tell you how many horses I’ve given good names that didn’t work out. Of course, I’ve wasted some really good names on some horses that turned out not to be good racehorses. But you always hope that the good name will attach to a good horse.”
Caddo River made three starts at 2, finishing second in two 7-furlong races in New York before breaking his maiden by 9 ½-front-running lengths in a one-turn mile at Churchill Downs. Caddo River delivered as the odds-on favorite and earned a career-high 83 Beyer Speed Figure. Caddo River has four published workouts at Oaklawn, the last a Jan. 16 move over a fast track when he covered 5 furlongs, in company, in 1:00.40.
“This COVID has cramped our style across the board and so I’m not as familiar with the horse as I normally would be,” Anthony said. “I usually smoke them over in the spring in Ocala and then again in the summer, sometimes up at Saratoga. But last year, as you know, that wasn’t, I guess, appropriate, certainly for a man of my age. I know him by what I’m being told and, of course, Brad thinks highly of him and feels like, as Brad says, ‘This is a good horse.’ So, we’ll see how good.”
Caddo River is out of the Anthony-raced mare, Pangburn, an allowance winner at the 2015 Oaklawn meeting. Pangburn then finished third in the $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) and fourth in the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3), Oaklawn’s two biggest events for 3-year-old fillies. All three races were 1 1/16 miles.
The projected Smarty Jones field from the rail out: Martini Blu, Francisco Arrieta to ride, 115 pounds, 6-1 on the morning line; Lawlessness, David Cohen, 115, 12-1; Cowan, Ricardo Santana Jr., 115, 9-5; Big Thorn, David Cabrera, 117, 9-2; Hardly Swayed, Martin Garcia, 115, 12-1; Moonlite Strike, Joe Talamo, 115, 4-1; and Caddo River, Florent Geroux, 115, 5-2.
Cowan and Big Thorn, a recent arrival from south Florida, are trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, who won the 2020 Smarty Jones with Gold Street. Cowan finished a fast-closing second in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) Nov. 6 at Keeneland and completed his 2-year-old campaign with a runner-up finish in the $200,000 Springboard Mile Dec. 18 at Remington Park.
Big Thorn, previously with trainer David Fawkes, won the $60,000 off-the-turf Juvenile Turf Stakes Nov. 22 at Gulfstream Park West for prominent Arkansas owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong. The Lieblongs bred Big Thorn and campaigned his sire, Grade 1 winner The Big Beast.
Moonlite Strike, a winner of two consecutive starts in south Florida, will be making his two-turn and stakes debut for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr., who has a string at Oaklawn for the first time in 2021. Lawlessness is also entered in an entry-level allowance race Saturday, but will run in the Smarty Jones, trainer Ingrid Mason said Wednesday morning.
The Smarty Jones is the first of 33 scheduled stakes races during the 57-day meeting that ends May 1.
For more information, visit www.oaklawn.com or call 501-623-4411. Oaklawn – A New Level of Racing.