Victory Formation grabbed control early and dominated the Smarty Jones (Photo by Coady Photography)
Once Victory Formation blasted from his outside post and crossed to the rail in front, Sunday’s $250,000 Smarty Jones S. at Oaklawn Park was effectively over. The 3-5 favorite led throughout to pass his two-turn test and remain perfect in three starts.
As his odds indicated, Victory Formation brought strong credentials into this first scoring race on Oaklawn’s Road to the Kentucky Derby
. The Brad Cox trainee had broken his maiden impressively at Keeneland and captured an entry-level allowance in game fashion at Churchill Downs. Although both were sprints, Victory Formation is bred to go much further, as a son of 2017 Belmont
(G1) winner Tapwrit.
Victory Formation’s profile as a potential Derby contender was enough to lure Santa Anita-based jockey Flavien Prat to Hot Springs, Arkansas, to ride him for the first time. The trip was worth it.
Breaking quickly from post 8, Victory Formation had most of the field beaten for speed in the opening strides. His lone pace rival, longshot Western Ghent, tried to keep the favorite parked outside, but he wasn’t fast enough to prevent Victory Formation from crossing over entering the clubhouse turn.
From there, the Smarty Jones was a Sunday stroll for the favorite. Western Ghent again attempted to challenge Victory Formation down the backstretch, this time on the outside, but couldn’t get any nearer than a length. Victory Formation, still in his comfort zone, simply drew away again on cue rounding the far turn.
Stablemate Angel of Empire, near the back of the pack early, steadily improved position and swung into the stretch in second. Although Angel of Empire pulled clear of the rest, he was no threat to Victory Formation, who maintained a three-length advantage at the wire.
By negotiating the mile in 1:38.14, Victory Formation earned his first 10 points toward the Kentucky Derby. Angel of Empire completed the Cox exacta and picked up four points.
Denington closed for third, another three lengths back. The Ken McPeek pupil added three points to increase his total to four. Western Ghent tired to fourth, good for two points, and How Did He Do That received one point in fifth. Next came Ten Days Later, Communication Memo, and C. J’s Storm.
Campaigned by Spendthrift Farm and Frank Fletcher Racing Operations, Victory Formation has bankrolled $282,285 from his 3-for-3 record. The bay colt went to his current connections for $340,000 as a two-year-old in training at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic last May.
Victory Formation was bred by Gainesway Thoroughbreds in Kentucky. Gainesway Farm is the stud home not only of Tapwrit, but also of his own sire, the influential patriarch Tapit. Victory Formation’s dam, the Smart Strike mare Smart N Soft, is responsible for graded stakes performer Bellamore
, who’s placed in the Rodeo Drive (G1) on turf and Falls City (G3) on dirt in her past two.
The next stop on the Derby trail at Oaklawn
is the Jan. 28 Southwest (G3), but Cox mentioned that Victory Formation was likely to look toward the Feb. 25 Rebel (G2).