MLK Day Special – 2018 Smarty Jones Stakes Preview


January 14th 2018 – Updated January 15th

The Road to the Kentucky Derby trail continues tomorrow on Martin Luther King Day at Oaklawn Park. Another 17 Derby points are up for grabs (10-4-2-1). Although this is a small seven horse field, it should be an interesting race with entries from Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher and Steve Asmussen.

The Smarty Jones Stakes is named after one of my all-time personal favorites. The Pennsylvania-bred who swept the Southwest Stakes, the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park in 2004 en route to winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes that year. His bid for the Triple Crown came up short by a length in the Belmont Stakes with a second place finish to Birdstone.

Below are the post-positions, weights, jockey assignments and morning line odds.

The Smarty Jones Stakes

The Smarty Jones Stakes – 1 Mile – Race #8 at Oaklawn Park – Post-Time: Monday January 15th at 4:38 PM CST. Televised by TVG

1. Combatant (115) – Santana Jr/Asmussen – 2/1
2. Lone Rock (115) – Stevens/Van Meter – 12/1 (Scratched)
3. Tap Daddy (117) – Contreras/Asmussen – 8/1
4. Mourinho (115) – Van Dyke/Baffert – 3/2
5. Arched Feather (115) – Court/Frederick – 30/1
6. Navistar (115) – Velazquez/Pletcher – 5/2 (Scratched)
7. Bode’s Maker (115) – Wethey Jr/Milligan – 30/1

Race Commentary: The Bob Baffert trainee Mourinho is the race favorite at 3/2 odds. He has the highest E Speed Figure (104) in the field. Mourinho has two second place finishes in his last two starts (Speakeasy Stakes and Bob Hope Stakes). From Steve Asmussen’s barn, Combatant is the 2nd race favorite at 2/1 odds. Combatant finished 2nd in his last start–the Remington Springboard Mile back in December. Asmussen’s other entry, Tap Daddy (8/1), won in his last start on turf at Churchill Downs. Prior to this start, he finished 2nd in the Dixiana Bourbon Stakes (8 1/2 furlongs). 

There are high expectations for the Todd Pletcher trained colt Navistar. The son of Union Rags was purchased for $900,000 as a 2 year-old in the OBS March 2017 sale. He will be ridden by Johnny V (John Velazquez) so I suspect he might be the live race favorite with bettors come post-time. Just remember that Navistar and Mourinho will both be making their two-turn debuts.

Rounding out the field, Lone Rock (12/1), Arched Feather (30/1) and Bode’s Maker (30/1). Gary Stevens will ride Lone Rock who had a fourth place finish at Oaklawn Park in his last start. Arched Feather broke his maiden won in his last start at Churchill Downs at 8 1/2 furlongs. 

As I stated in my previous blog, you never know what to expect with these January Derby trail races. I prefer to watch and see how this plays out rather than wager anything big. Crunching numbers, this appears to be a really good race on paper as the top four horses in this field (Mourinho, Combatant, Navistar and Tap Daddy) all have very similar closing speeds. So I am expecting a close race. And my hunch is that there are at least two future Kentucky Derby runners in this field.

Firenze Fire Wins the 2018 Jerome Stakes

Firenze Fire finished strong down the stretch in yesterday’s Jerome Stakes (shown below). Barring injury, pencil him in for this year’s Kentucky Derby. He currently sits tied for 2nd in Derby points with 20.

On the Docket…

My next blog will preview the 2018 Pegasus World Cup contenders. 


The Road to the Kentucky Derby — The 2018 Jerome Stakes


January 11th 2018

The month of January begins the unveiling of how well last year’s promising 2 year-old colts have developed over the layoff. Some improve by leaps and bounds, other regress. The Sham Stakes last Saturday (shown below) told us that the Bob Baffert-trained colt McKinzie is a serious Kentucky Derby contender. He’s a perfect 3 for 3 thus far. However, unlike many of the other Kentucky Derby hopefuls, McKinzie had remained in training since he debut in late October of last year.

The Road to the Kentucky Derby trail continues this Saturday with another qualifying point paying race at Aqueduct with the Jerome Stakes. 17 Derby points are up for grabs. The Jerome Stakes has been run since 1866 and has some notable race winners in Kelso, Bold RulerTom Fool and Afleet. The John Servis-trained colt Firenze Fire is the 3/5 race favorite. The race record is 1:33:20 held by Noble Nashua (1981).

Below are the post-positions, weights, jockey assignments and morning line odds.

The Jerome Stakes

The Jerome Stakes – 1 Mile – Race #8 at Aqueduct – Post-Time: Saturday January 13th at 2:50 PM CST. Televised by TVG

1. Coltandmississippi (118) – McCarthy/Pletcher – 6/1
2. Seven Trumpets (118) – Lopez/Romans – 3/1
3. Regalian (116) – Reyes/Englehart – 20/1
4. Factor This (116) – Davis/Barker – 30/1
5. Smooth B (118) – RoccoJr/Reid Jr – 10/1
6. Old Time Revival (116) – Alvarado/Decker – 10/1
7. Firenze Fire (122) – Franco/Servis – 3/5
8. Glenwood (118) – Carmouche/Wilkinson – 50/1

Race Commentary:  Overall, I like two colts in this field: Seven Trumpets and Firenze Fire. And I think the race will come down to these two. Firenze Fire won the Champagne Stakes and finished 7th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Seven Trumpets has won his last two starts. However, keep an eye on Coltandmississippi. He is a paternal half brother to American Pharoah and he’s trained by Todd Pletcher. Coltandmississsippi and has been inconsistent in four career starts (two wins, a 5th and 10th place finish) thus far. But you have to love the pedigree/trainer combo.

Overall, you never know what to expect with these January Derby trail races with colts coming off layoffs. So this isn’t a good betting race but one a great one to watch anyway. Perhaps a new star will emerge.

On the Docket…

My next blog will preview the 2018 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park scheduled for Monday January 15th–Martin Luther King Day. After that, my next blog will be one on the 2018 Pegasus World Cup contenders. I will have Smarty Jones Stakes preview out by Sunday night at the latest.