The 2017 Smarty Jones Stakes will emanate from Oaklawn Park on Monday, January 16th as a Road to the Kentucky Derby points race. The top-four finishers will earn points worth 10-4-2-1 towards entering the Kentucky Derby (G1).
The one mile long Smarty Jones S. is not only a Kentucky Derby prep race, but is a prep for races held later in Oaklawn's race meet. Recent winners have typically continued on to compete in the Southwest Stakes (G3) and Arkansas Derby (G1), but have not been productive with favorable results in the Triple Crown series.
Perhaps the most interesting horse in the race is three-year-old Petrov, who finished second in the King’s Swan Stakes hosted by Aqueduct in early December of 2016. Petrov is a relative unknown runner, but worked at Oaklawn with a :47.60 half-mile scorcher that is sure to catch the attention of some horse players in the lead up to the Smarty Jones S.
Trainer Ron Moquett seems to be fairly high on his prospect. “He’s a cool horse,” Moquett said. “When Oaklawn gets to see him for the first time, I think everybody’s going to fall in love.”
Petrov is named after Eugene Petrov, a celebrated Russian ballet dancer. “Some of the moves he gives on the track are like a ballet dancer,” Moquett continued. “My partner said let’s name him after a ballet dancer. I said that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
This will be Moquett’s second attempt at winning the Smarty Jones Stakes after doing so with Far Right in 2015.
Uncontested will be a major consideration for bettors after finishing 4th in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2), which was eventually won by three-year-old standout McCraken. Trained by Wayne Catalano and owned by Harry Rosenblum, Uncontested poses some interesting promise, but will have to do more to prove his overall betting value. This son of Tiz Wonderful posted a moderate clip of 1:15.81 in his maiden special weight debut at 6 1/2 furlongs. He might be better suited for shorter distances and tends to be viewed highly, so he will have some hype to live up to.
Warrior’s Club is also bound for the 2017 Smarty Jones Stakes after finishing third at the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes late last season. Trained by the legendary D. Wayne Lukas, this son of Warrior’s Reward posted a time of 1:23.31 at 7 furlongs while winning the Spendthrift Stallion Stakes in October of 2016. He will be a tempting bet given his experience, when compared to the rest of the field. His record of 1-1-2 for six starts could certainly use some improvement.
Cu Rahy is coming off a questionable 9th place finish in the 2016 Remington Springboard Mile Stakes from last December. He previously finished 3rd in the Kip Deville Stakes in September of the same year. He will likely start as a longshot among the field.
In short, Petrov is by far the most interesting of the nominated runners and Warrior’s Club a solid choice to include in an exacta box. The Smarty Jones will highlight standout prospects marching towards the Southwest S.and the Arkansas Derby, which are also legs along the 2017 Kentucky Derby trail.