(Editor’s Note: Ryan Dickey, one of the most popular and likable people I have ever met in the entire Thoroughbred industry, takes a closer look at the Smarty Jones Stakes on Opening Day at Oaklawn Park. Take a look at what Ryan has written. His insights are spot on.)
Oaklawn Park opens for live racing on Friday, and the highlight of the card is the Smarty Jones Stakes, a two-turn one mile race for three year olds which is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race series. Race #8 (approximately 4:52 pm ET) on the day for a purse of $150,000 drew nine entrants. Here’s a look at each of them:
#1 Long Range Toddy (Richard Eramia/Steve Asmussen) 4-1
The first of three runners for trainer Steve Asmussen, Long Range Toddy makes his first start outside of Remington Park, where he broke his maiden in his second career start going one mile on September 28 last year. Eramia retains the mount as he has since the Take Charge Indy colt broke his maiden. He won the Springboard mile at Remington last out, garnering an 82 Beyer Speed Rating. He has won both time he raced exactly a mile. Long Range Toddy owns a three race winning streak.
#2 Sleepy Eyes Todd (David Cabrera/Miguel Silva) 30-1
Sleepy Eyes Todd broke his maiden in his career debut on October 27 last year at Remington Park. Cabrera retains the mount from that 6-½ furlong race where the Paddy O’Prado colt received a 63 Beyer.
#3 Super Steed (Terry Thompson/J. Larry Jones) 9/2
Gabriel Saez had ridden this Super Saver colt in all three of his career starts (at Keeneland, Churchill Downs, and Fair Grounds) but Thompson takes the reins for Larry Jones here. Super Steed broke his maiden in a $75,000 optional claiming race at 6-½ furlongs last November 24–beating fellow Smarty Jones entries Boldor and Jack Van Berg.His career high Beyer of 87 came in his victory on a sloppy Churchill Downs track that day. He last finished fourth in the Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fairgrounds–the race won by Smarty Jones morning line favorite Gray attempt over Lecomte contenders Manny Wah and Hog Creek Hustle.
#4 Six Shooter (Stewart Elliott/Paul Holthus) 6-1
Six Shooter is the veteran of this group with seven career starts under his belt. The Trappe Shot gelding broke his maiden at third asking, going six furlongs at Indiana Grand last October. He has won two of his last three races, including the $75,000 Big Drama Stakes at Delta Downs on January 5th. He has never had a Beyer Speed figure of over 78. He finished eleventh in the Springboard Mile.
#5 Boldor (Ramon Vazquez/Steve Asmussen) 8-1
Having won at first asking going six furlongs at Keeneland last October, Boldor last finished second to Super Steed in that optional claiming race at Churchill Downs last November. The Munnings colt tackles two turns for the first time.
#6 Forloveofcountry (Joe Bravo/James DiVito) 12-1
This Sky Mesa colt broke his maiden at Del Mar last July going a mile on the turf. He won last out, garnering a career high 77 Beyer in a one mile $75,000 optional claiming race on a sloppy Churchill Downs main track. Forloveofcountry was a $300,000 purchase at OBS March last year.
#7 Bankit (Ricardo Santana Jr./Steve Asmussen) 7/2
Bankit has won two of his six career races and has finished second three times. His worst finish was fourth in the $150,000 Bertram Bongard Stakes at Belmont last September. He finished second last time out in the Springboard Mile, where he received an 82 Beyer. Like Forloveofcountry, this Central Banker colt was purchased at OBS March for a $260,000 price tag. He has one win and one place in two races at the mile distance.
#8 Gray Attempt (Shaun Bridgmohan) 5/2 favorite
The winner of the Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds and winner of two of three career starts, this Graydar colt has the highest Beyer figure in the field at 92. He has never raced beyond six and a half furlongs. He has a two race win streak on the line. He finished fourth in his career nod in an $82,000 maiden special weight sprint at Churchill Downs–a race won by #9 Jack Van Berg.
#9 Jack Van Berg (Jon K. Court/ Thomas Van Berg) 20-1
Jack Van Berg finished fifth, nine and a half lengths back last out in that optional claiming race won by Super Steed (Boldor finished second, six lengths behind the winner). He broke his maiden in his third attempt. Winning a six furlong sprint at Churchill Downs last November. The To Honor and Serve colt has a career high Beyer of 80.
Each entry is making his first start at Oaklawn Park, so no one horse has an advantage over the others in this regard. Long Range Toddy is 2-for-2 at the mile distance. Six Shooter has won two of his three one mile races. Forloveofcountry won his only one mile race. Bankit has a win and a place at the mile distance. It’s important to note that some of these mile races were at one turn, whereas this will be a two turn mile.
The pace projects to be brisk, with the outside horses leading the early charge. Gray Attempt or Jack Van Berg may get the first call, followed closely by Boldor and Bankit.
This time of year, just-turned three year olds can make some marked improvements over their freshman campaigns. The horse I look to win this race is #7 Bankit for trainer Steve Asmussen. He did angle out late going a mile last time at Remington Park, but one mile should suit him fine. The other horses I expect to hit the board are the morning line favorite #8 Gray Attempt and #1 Long Range Toddy who has a nose for the wire.
Win/Place #7 Bankit
Exacta box 1,7,8
Trifecta box 1,7,8