Smarty Jones

Second Generation Kentucky Derby Winners

Breeding has since changed. Racing in general has altered its course with updated factors that now play into training a champion as well. Even as the majority of exceptional horses that were gifted 3-yr-olds, as well as sires, are not so common, the chances of it occurring again are here.

This weekend the Road to the 2014 Kentucky Derby takes us to the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, Louisiana for the G3 LeComte Stakes. Here you’ll find Smarty’s Echo, by 2004 Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones, racing for the chance to qualify for the Kentucky Derby and a shot at becoming the next Father, Son team to accomplish the rare but thrilling achievement.

Since the inaugural Kentucky Derby in 1875 a total of 13 winners reached the pinnacle of racing just like their sire had done before. The last time the son of Kentucky Derby winner also wore the roses was in 1996. It wasGrindstone, by Unbridled, that stuck his nose in front of a hard charging Cavonnier and rode off into the sunset. The Kentucky Derby would be Grindstone’s final race as he was retired shortly thereafter. However, the champion owned and bred by Overbrook Farm will always be remembered for joining this elusive club.

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The Morning Line: Smarty Jones

Smarty Jones will always be remembered for one of the most spectacular Triple Crown bids that ended just short of legendary. For a horse that was wasn’t on the experts radar for the better part of the Derby Prep season, he came storming through the first two legs before being denied by the slimmest of heart breaking margins. Smarty Jones is a true thoroughbred champion and very deserving of the derby prep race named in his honor.  The Smarty Jones Stakes is scheduled for Monday January 16. 

Looking back

His racing career officially got underway late sophomore season when he scored back to back wins by no less than 7 ½ lengths. By then, Owners Roy and Patricia Chapman must have had a good feeling about their colt. After that it was Trainer John Servis who gets applause for his approach towards the first Saturday in May.   (more…)

Alpha Rebounds, Out of Bounds Upsets

Alpha Rebounds in the Count Fleet

Godolphin Racing’s Alpha put himself back into the early 2012 Kentucky Derby contender conversation with an easy and impressive win on Saturday in the $150,000 Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct.  The 3-yr-old debut for the Kiaran McLaughlin trained colt was a huge rebound after his sophomore season ended with a disappointing 11th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. 

Sent off as the 4-5 favorite, Jockey Ramon Dominguez placed Alpha just off the leaders in third before making his move at the top of the lane.  After a short-lived duel with pace setter II Villano, Alpha moved by comfortably to score a 2 ½ victory, his first ever graded stakes win.  Racing on Lasix for the first time, he covered 1 Mile and 70 yards in 1:42.83 over the Fast inner track at Aqueduct behind slow fractions of 24.48, 49.06, 1:13.91.

The Son of Bernadini looked like the horse that many expected to see in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile where he entered after finishing 2nd to the eventual winner Union Rags in the G1 Champagne last October.  Besides an easy win against a viable field of 7, his stretch run and gallop out after the wire is what impressed me the most. Alpha looked very much like a horse that is bred for distance and he looked very strong down the stretch, the place where the Triple Crown champions win.  Expect Alpha to remain on the New York circuit where he will likely return for the Withers Stakes on Feb. 4th before moving on to the Wood Memorial on 4/7. 

Raced since it’s inauguration in 1975 only one Count Fleet Stakes winner has ever gone on to win the Kentucky Derby – Smarty Jones in 2004.  Of course it’s premature but Alpha has put himself in a nice position to attempt to become the second Count Fleet winner to wear the Roses on the first Saturday in May.  (more…)

The Morning Line: Rebel Stakes

The Rebel Could Provide a Big Payday

Sliding down the Mississippi, the Derby bus heads back to Arkansas for the first time since ArchArchArch‘s shocking victory in the Southwest Stakes at 14-1.  The site is Hot Springs at Oaklawn Park which has a unique history as a resort of bathhouses and a once thriving gambling, gangster, prostitution and racing scene.  Oddly enough, this was a place that the executive branch of our government frequented thoroughout the 1800s and early 1900s.  At one point, Wyatt Earp was de-armed in town for being drunk and unhappy with his gambling losses.  It sounds like he may have been just ‘standing around and bleeding’ while having trouble ‘skinning that smoke wagon’.

Back in the prohibition days, Al Capone used to frequently visit Hot Springs and stay at the famous Arlington Hotel.  It is here that he brokered many of his liquor and moonshine deals in order to supply his growing number of speak-easys, mainly in the Midwest.  However, Arkansas is not just rich with stories of its history, people and land, but it is overflowing with champion racehorses.  In the last few years, the Rebel Stakes was won by Kentucky Derby champion and Horse of the Year Smarty Jones, 2-time Horse of the Year Curlin and the Derby 2nd place finisher and Preakness winner Lookin at Lucky.

This year’s Rebel Stakes features a few newcomers on the scene in addition to several Derby probables.  The under the radar ArchArchArch will try to repeat his form from the Southwest Stakes and will take on s0me of the top early 3-year-olds including California shippers The Factor and Sway Away.  Other notable contenders include Alternation, JP’s Gusto, Caleb’s Posse and Dreaminofthewin.

$300,000 Rebel Stakes (gr. II, Race 10, 5:31 p.m.), 3YO, 1 1/16 Miles (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Archarcharch (KY), J K Court, 122, W H Fires 8-1
2. Alternation (KY), L S Quinonez, 117, D K Von Hemel 12-1
3. Dreaminofthewin (KY), M C Berry, 115, C R Trout SCRATCH
4. Picko’s Pride (KY), I Ocampo, 115, M Robertson 20-1
5. J P’s Gusto (KY), R A Dominguez, 117, J Petalino 5-1
6. The Factor (KY), M Garcia, 117, B Baffert 2-1
7. Caleb’s Posse (KY), E Razo Jr., 122, D K Von Hemel 20-1
8. Saratoga Red (KY), T J Thompson, 115, D W Lukas 30-1
9. Sway Away (KY), G K Gomez, 115, J Bonde 5-2
10. Elite Alex (ON), C H Borel, 115, T F Ritchey 8-1
11. Glint (KY), G Saez, 117, K Gorder SCRATCH
12. Bluegrass Jam (KY), M C Baze, 115, W H Fires 30-1
13. J W Blue (KY), J Rocco Jr., 117, A W Dutrow 30-1

Even with the lack of speed, I do not think that The Factor wants to go 1 1/16 and think he will be caught.  That being said, there is a chance that he could carry his speed in this race since there is no real threat to challenge him on the front end with the exception of Saratoga Red (looks like a 3rd place finish is more likely).  I expect JP’s Gusto to find a nice stalking trip and get an early jump on Sway Away, Alternation and Elite Alex.  JP’s Gusto has been working supurbly, as many of the contenders have, and has the look of a good horse peaking for this race.  If he were not boxed in the last time out, I think that he might have been able to pass ArchArchArch down the stretch.  I wanted to find room on my ticket for ArchArchArch but when he drew the #1 post, it made it easier to leave him off.  There will be several charging at the end, but I like JP’s Gusto to hold off Sway Away at the finish.  Good luck to all.

The Pick: 5 JP’s Gusto – 9 Sway Away – 2 Alternation

Live Longshots (likely 10-1 or higher):  Alternation and JW Blue

Written By: Fundanichols

Good luck on your brackets and watchout for Richmond, Oakland and Gonzaga.  Also, Washington could be very dangerous against North Carolina if they make it to the 2nd round.  Remember, it’s insanely easy to hit free throws but not everyone does it.

Final Note: Cal Nation has finally found an allowance race to draw in over the weekend and it should be a challenging one.  The race has also drawn Dance City, another one of Pletcher’s impressive maiden winners and the fast closing 4th place finisher from the Fountain of Youth, Bowman’s Causeway.  We will check in with the winners but expect CN and BC to both be very tough.

The Morning Line: Southwest Stakes

As the country celebrates the lives and work of our great presidential leaders today, the derby trail shifts its focus from California and Louisiana to the great state of Arkansas.  Hot Springs, Arkansas is best known for its natural spring water that flows from the ground and the touring locations in Hot Springs National Park.  But, the city is also home to historic Oaklawn Park, site of the Grade III Southwest Stakes. 

Owned by the Oaklawn Jockey Club, Inc., Oaklawn officially opened for racing purposes in 1905.  The Southwest Stakes (1 mile) serves as the first leg of the local prep races leading to the G.I Arkansas Derby with the G.II Rebel Stakes serving as the second leg.  The most notable winner to sweep all three races was 2004 Kentucky Derby Champion Smarty Jones.  With a field of 11 horses set to break from the gate this afternoon, the road to Kentucky through Arkansas begins. 

Early favorite is JP’s Gusto, owned by Dr. John Waken.  Dr. Waken created quite a stir in the racing world by transfering JP’s Gusto from David Hoffmans’s stable in California to Joe Petalino in Arkansas earlier this year.  Petalino has a lively horse (he is the only graded stakes winner in the field) and he looks like the one to beat this afternoon.  But, can JP’s Gusto make a smooth transition to dirt and can he win at longer distances?  In his only start on dirt, he finished 6th in BC Juvenile and his biggest wins as a 2 yr old were in sprint races on synthetics.

Caleb’s Posse has a win over the track in the Smarty Jones Stakes at the same distance.  D. Wayne Lukas sends Smarty Jones starters Bonaroo and Derivative.  Also in the field is Elite Alex, son of 2005 Arkansas Derby winner Afleet Alex.  Elite Alex finished second by a head in an optional claiming race at a one-mile distance as well.  Several horses in the field are looking at this race as a springboard to generate graded stakes winnings.  With a large field and several live horses, it looks to be an interesting race that will sharpen the focus of racing in Arkansas as we approach the month of March. 

Horse                             Jockey                       Trainer                 Odds

  1. Caleb’s Posse          E. Razo, Jr.                D. Von Hemel       9-2
  2. Derivative              T. Thompson             D. Lukas                8-1
  3. Ghost Is Clear        C. Lanerie                  M. Maker              8-1
  4. Grant Jack              M. Berry                    W. Calhoun           15-1
  5. JP’s Gusto               R. Dominguez            J. Petalino             9-5
  6. Archarcharch          J. Court                      W. Fires                10-1
  7. Bonaroo                   J. Johnson                  D. Lukas                30-1
  8. Yankee Passion      G. Saez                       J. Jones                  8-1
  9. Elite Alex                 C. Borel                      T. Ritchey             4-1
  10. Brickyard Fast        B. McNeil                   J. Petalino             30-1
  11. Picko’s Pride            I. Ocampo                 M. Robertson       30-1

Look for JP’s Gusto to use his speed up front, but I like Caleb’s Promise to score the win over the favorite.  I’m also anxious to see if Elite Alex can rekindle the magic his father did in Arkansas six years earlier.  We would like to wish all of the owners, trainers, jockeys, and horses a safe trip this afternoon and good luck as they move forward. 

Written by Big Brink