(Silver Prospector won the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs last December / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
From the Oaklawn Park Media Team:
Nine horses, including four from Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, were entered Friday in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 24, a 1-mile race that is Oaklawn’s first of four Kentucky Derby points races.
The Smarty Jones will go as the eighth race on the nine-race opening-day program, with probable post time 3:52 p.m. CT. Racing begins at 12:35 p.m.
The projected Smarty Jones field from the rail out: Lykan, Terry Thompson to ride, 115 pounds; Silver Prospector, Ricardo Santana Jr., 119; Shared Sense, Florent Geroux, 115; Nucky, Joe Talamo, 119; Jungle Runner, Ramon Vazquez, 119; Gold Street, Martin Garcia, 119; Shoplifted, Tyler Gaffalione, 119; Lynn’s Map, Miguel Mena, 117; and Three Technique, Irad Ortiz Jr., 119.
Silver Prospector, Jungle Runner, Gold Street and Shoplifted are trained by Asmussen, a 10-time Oaklawn training champion who is seeking his first Smarty Jones victory.
Shoplifted competed against many of the country’s top 2-year-olds, finishing seventh in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Nov. 1 at Santa Anita before winning the $400,000 Springboard Mile Dec. 15 in his last start.
Silver Prospector won the $300,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) Nov. 30 at Churchill Downs in his last start.
Nucky scored his biggest career victory to date in the $300,000 Del Mar Futurity (G1) Sept. 2 at Del Mar. Three Technique, owned by two-time Super Bowl winning coach Bill Parcells, will be making his stakes debut after closing his 2-year-old campaign with two dominant victories in New York.
The Smarty Jones will offer 17 points to the top four finishers (10-4-2-1) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. Oaklawn’s Kentucky Derby points series continues with the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3), Feb. 17, $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14 and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 11.
Cox Looks to Build on Success
The 40-horse Zenyatta barn again belongs to Brad Cox, and again the high-percentage trainer possesses some of the most firepower on the grounds. And more is on the way.
Cox has already outlined Oaklawn plans for three of his most promising runners, with unbeaten Taraz scheduled to make her 3-year-old debut in the $150,000 Martha Washington Stakes Feb. 1, Answer In scheduled to make his 3-year-old debut in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 17 and Warrior’s Charge scheduled to make his 4-year-old debut in the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) Feb. 17.
Taraz, a gargantuan daughter of Into Mischief, worked a half-mile in a sizzling :46.80 last Sunday at Fair Grounds in advance of the 1-mile Martha Washington, which will be her two-turn debut. Taraz has won her two starts, including the $75,000 Letellier Memorial Stakes Dec. 21 at Fair Grounds, by a combined 18 ¾ lengths. Warrior’s Charge is also training at Fair Grounds. The Munnings colt was a powerful maiden and first-level allowance winner last year at Oaklawn before finishing fourth in the Preakness, the second leg of racing’s Triple Crown. Warrior’s Charge won his allowance comeback Dec. 18 at Fair Grounds. Answer In, who is training at Oaklawn, finished second in the $400,000 Springboard Mile Dec. 15 at Remington Park in his last start.
Other Oaklawn-based horses for Cox include Grade 2 winner Mylady Curlin, who is pointing for the $300,000 Houston Ladies Classic (G3) Jan. 26 at Sam Houston; $1.2 million purchase Gold Standard, Irish Mischief and Remedy, all candidates for the $100,000 Pippin Stakes for older fillies and mares Jan. 25; and Night Ops, runner-up in last year’s inaugural $300,000 Oaklawn Invitational for 3-year-olds. Night Ops, Cox said, is targeting an allowance spot for his 4-year-old debut.
Cox said Mylady Curlin, a 2019 Oaklawn allowance winner, could be pointed for a race like the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 14 if she runs well in the Houston Ladies Classic. The Azeri is Oaklawn’s final major prep for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 18. Irish Mischief, Cox said, is also under consideration for the $125,000 American Beauty Stakes for female sprinters Feb. 1.
Also training at Oaklawn are Grade 1 winner and 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) runner-up Knicks Go, a recent addition to the Cox barn; stakes-winning Emboldened, a 5-year-old mare previously with Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert; and lightly raced Communicator, a 4-year-old half-brother to 2018 champion older dirt male and Oaklawn Handicap runner-up Accelerate. All are candidates to resurface in allowance races.
“I think it’s the deepest group we’ve ever brought there, without a doubt,” said Cox, who has at least one victory every year at Oaklawn since 2009. “It’s a deep group that I’m super excited about getting started. Some very nice horses, a lot of quality. Oaklawn’s been good to us and hopefully it will be good again because it seems like we’ve kind of pointed for it a little more this year than past years. We’re hoping to get things started off quick.”
Cox has three horses entered opening day, Jan. 24, including Shared Sense, a three-race maiden who is scheduled to make his 3-year-old debut in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes, Oaklawn’s first of four Kentucky Derby points races.
Overall, Cox has won 25 percent of his starts at Oaklawn (179 of 702) and 11 stakes. He was Oaklawn’s sixth-leading trainer last year with 20 victories. Cox and perennial Oaklawn leading trainer Steve Asmussen are among three finalists for an Eclipse Award as the country’s outstanding trainer of 2019.
Laughing Fox, winner of last year’s inaugural $300,000 Oaklawn Invitational for 3-year-olds, is working steadily at Fair Grounds and should resurface next month, owner Alex Lieblong of Conway, Ark., said. Laughing Fox is unraced since the $1.25 million Travers Stakes (G1) Aug. 24 at Saratoga. Lieblong said stablemate and Grade 1 winner Wicked Whisper has resumed training at Fair Grounds and the hope is to make some of Oaklawn’s major stakes races for 3-year-old fillies. Wicked Whisper is unraced since the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) Nov. 1 at Santa Anita. Both horses are with Hall of Fame trainer and perennial Oaklawn champion Steve Asmussen. Lieblong and wife JoAnn were Oaklawn’s third-leading owners last year with 12 victories. … Woopigsooie, unraced since a runner-up finish in the $75,000 Arlington-Washington Futurity Sept. 7 at Arlington Park, should begin breezing in February in preparation for his 3-year-old debut, trainer Johnny Ortiz said. “Try to get at least two starts … try to make a 3-year-old stakes at the end of the meet here before we leave,” said Ortiz, trains Woopigsooie for the Woo Pig Stables of Arkansan John Fox. “Woo pig sooie” is the well-known cheer at University of Arkansas sporting events. … MMA fighter Chel-c Bailey, who launched her riding career in September at Canterbury Park, is on the grounds working horses. Bailey’s husband, David Kembrey, is an exercise rider for trainer Mac Robertson and Bailey was an exercise rider at the 2020 Oaklawn meeting for trainer Jinks Fires of Hot Springs. … The 4-year-old maiden Southern Phantom, an internet sensation because of his unique markings (bald face, one blue eye and four long socks), is on the grounds training for four-time Oaklawn leading owner Danny Caldwell, who purchased the son of 2012 Arkansas Derby winner Bodemeister for $20,000 at the 2019 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale.