Trainer Bob Baffert has successfully utilized Oaklawn Park’s series of three-year-old stakes leading up to the Kentucky Derby in the past, including with Triple Crown hero American Pharoah, and on Monday ships Mourinho to Hot Springs, Arkansas, for the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes.
The one-mile contest is worth 10-4-2-1 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and kicks off Oaklawn’s four-race series of three-year-old preps for the Run for the Roses that culminates in the Arkansas Derby (G1).
Mourinho was withdrawn from Santa Anita Park’s Sham Stakes (G3), which stablemate McKinzie captured by 3 1/2 lengths on January 6, in favor of this race. The Super Saver colt broke his maiden debut at Santa Anita on September 30 and showed up a few weeks later to finish second in the Speakeasy Stakes. The bay colt enters the Smarty Jones off a runner-up effort in the Bob Hope Stakes (G3) at Del Mar on November 11. Drayden Van Dyke was aboard that day and keeps the mount.
Combatant will attempt to parlay a second in the Springboard Mile into stakes victory here for trainer Steve Asmussen. The bay son of Scat Daddy ran fourth in his initial start, but that came on turf at Churchill Downs. He next tried Churchill’s main track and broke his maiden by 2 3/4 lengths before shipping to Remington Park for the Springboard Mile. Ricardo Santana Jr. has the return call.
Stablemate Tap Daddy sandwiched a head third, but placed second via disqualification, in the off-the-turf, sloppy Bourbon Stakes (G3) at Keeneland between a grassy maiden win at Kentucky Downs and victory in a Churchill turf allowance. The Scat Daddy colt teams with Luis Contreras in this return to the main track.
Lone Rock was well-beaten in his lone attempt thus far against stakes rivals. The Majestic Warrior colt didn’t have the cleanest of trips in that contest, the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland last October, and he rebounded to close out his juvenile campaign with a second against allowance/optional claimers going 1 1/16 miles at Churchill. Gary Stevens will be in the saddle for the first time here.
Bode’s Maker would have to show drastic improvement to challenge in the Smarty Jones after never threatening in the Springboard Mile last out. Floyd Wethey Jr. will be aboard the Allen Milligan trainee Monday.
Completing the field are Arched Feather and Navistar, who are both last-out maiden winners. The former scored at Churchill in late November in his third try while the latter triumphed at Gulfstream Park on December 16 in his second outing.