Monday’s $150,000 Smarty Jones is the first of four Kentucky Derby qualifying races at Oaklawn Park and eight 3-year-olds will compete for a total of 17 points (10-4-2-1 scale) in the one-mile event.
The Hot Springs, Arkansas track will also offer the February 20 Southwest (G3), March 18 Rebel (G2) and April 15 Arkansas Derby (G1) as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series.
Warrior’s Club and Uncontested rate as top contenders after finishing third and fourth, respectively, in the November 26 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs.
Warrior’s Club is the lone stakes winner in the field, breaking his maiden in the restricted Spendthrift Stallion at Churchill Downs two starts previously. The son of Warrior’s Reward led wire to wire in the Spendthrift but reverted to stalking tactics in the Kentucky Jockey Club, and Warrior’s Club figures to be up close tracking the speed in the Smarty Jones.
He’s trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, a four-time Kentucky Derby victor, and Robby Albarado rides.
Uncontested is the expected pacesetter. A smart wire-to-wire winner in his first start at
Keeneland, the dark bay colt sprinted forward from post 12 to show the way on a
clear lead in the Kentucky Jockey Club before weakening in the final furlongs
of his two-turn bow. By Tiz Wonderful, the Wayne Catalano trainee is eligible
to improve off the experience and keeps Channing Hill in the saddle. I like his chances on the front end.
Uncontested and Warrior’s Club have an excellent chance Monday to flatter the form of Kentucky Jockey Club winner McCraken and runner-up Wild Shot.
Romeo O Romeo, a Grade 3 runner-up on Polytrack and stakes-placed on turf, is the third and final contestant exiting the Kentucky Jockey Club, but he’ll need to show more off a last-place effort.
Petrov merits respect in his initial two-turn attempt. Conditioned by Ron Moquett, the gray colt rolled to a 3 ¼-length decision when opening his career in a November 12 maiden special weight at Churchill Downs and followed with a head second in the December 2 Kings Swan at Aqueduct. The son of Flatter has attracted the services of young riding star Jose Ortiz.
Completing the line-up are stakes-placed Cu Rahy and Rowdy Warrior; and maiden winners Love That Lute and Unbridled Eagle.
(Warrior's Club photo courtesy of Churchill Downs/Coady Photo)