Seven horses took to the gates at Oaklawn Park on Monday, January 15th to contest for the 2018 Smarty Jones Stakes crown and the favorite came through as hoped. Three-year-old Mourinho stormed the homestretch and coasted home as a stern 3⁄5 favorite on the board, completing a weekend sweep for the favorites in Kentucky Derby prep races. This was his first stakes victory.
Breaking well from the gates, Mourinho secured the lead and was clearly relaxed as he flew down the back stretch at a quarter-mile pace of :23.33. Tap Daddy and Combatant were in the mix the entire way, trying to hold with the leader but it was barely a contest. Mourinho streamed past the half-mile mark at :48.09, hit the three-quarter pole at 1:12.27 and then strode for home to win the Smarty Jones in a blazing fast time of 1:37.25.
With heavy odds to win, Mourinho delivered $3.20 and $2.10 in first place while Combatant was a smart play to place at 8⁄5 with a $2.40 return. Tap Daddy was a distant third with 6⁄1 odds of his own. Bode’s Maker was a longshot in the race and held on for fourth, earning him a single point on the derby trail with a 10-4-2-1 split going to the top four finishers.
This was a strong performance for Mourinho, who had placed second in both the 2017 Speakeasy and Bob Hope Stakes and seems to be getting better as he matures. His speed over the mile, and the calm manor in which he commanded the race from wire to wire, will definitely draw some attention his way.
Trainer Bob Baffert has yet another serious contender in his ranks, which should come as no surprise given the quality that he provides the sport during Triple Crown season. "We always hoped he’d pass the two turn test," Baffert said. "He broke well and was able to make the early lead. He looked like he had plenty left. We’re very encouraged. We’re excited. It’s that time of year when you start to get excited. I don’t know where we’ll run him back. The Southwest may be a good spot. We’ll get him back to California and see what happens."
The next Kentucky Derby prep race at Oaklawn Park will be the Southwest Stakes on February 19th during a busy week that will also feature the Risen Star over at Fair Grounds and the Hyacinth in Japan.
|3||Tap Daddy 6-1|