Oaklawn Park in Arkansas has been an increasingly productive winter proving ground for top Kentucky Derby contenders, thanks primarily to a rich series of prep races that kicks off each January with the Smarty Jones S. Inaugurated in 2009, the 1-mile Smarty Jones has quickly secured a prominent place on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, offering qualification points on a 10-4-2-1 basis to the top four finishers.
During the 2010s, the Smarty Jones produced seven Kentucky Derby starters, impressive considering the race did not officially rank as a Derby qualifier until 2013. While none of the Smarty Jones alumni reached the Churchill Downs winner’s circle, a few of them turned out to be capable stakes performers. Most notably, 2013 Smarty Jones winner Will Take Charge competed in all three legs of the Triple Crown and was eventually voted champion 3-year-old male at the Eclipse Awards.
Going back further, 2009 Smarty Jones winner Flat Out missed the Triple Crown but developed into a classy six-time graded stakes winner, counting two victories in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) among his notable triumphs. Caleb’s Posse, who prevailed in the 2011 Smarty Jones, likewise skipped the spring classics but achieved national acclaim with his triumph in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1).
Since 1-mile races at Oaklawn end at the sixteenth pole, the Smarty Jones features an abbreviated homestretch that often plays kindly toward front-running speedsters. Between 2017 and 2020, four straight editions of the Smarty Jones were won in gate-to-wire fashion. Most notable among these winners was Uncontested, whose 1:36.32 final time and 5 1⁄4-length margin of victory established records for the Smarty Jones.
By J. Keeler Johnson
Ken McPeek’s ever-increasing army of Kentucky Derby prospects had another name added to it when Dash Attack ran away with the Smarty Jones S. at Oaklawn Park Jan. 1.
A winner on debut at Oaklawn Park Dec. 5, Dash Attack was settled midfield by David Cohen before making a four-wide move on the final turn. He made his challenge soon after entering the stretch and sprinted clear for a two-length victory, earning 10 points in the 2022 Road to the Kentucky Derby series.
McPeek has already secured victories on the Derby Road with Rattle N Roll and Smile Happy, and while Dash Attack does not have the same profile as his stablemates, his effort was that of a horse on the improve.
Dash Attack is a homebred for Catalyst Stable and Magdalena Racing, and they race him with Kevin J. Pollard and Patty Slevin. He is by the proven sire Munnings, whose progeny also include the leading 2022 Derby contender Jack Christopher, out of the Hard Spun mare Cerce Cay, whose family includes the stakes winners Song of Navarone and Celluloid Hero. Stamina could be a question mark, one which future races will provide a clue toward.
Barber Road ran well despite some traffic problems at the top of the stretch and earned four points on the Derby Road series. Ignitis also made good ground to finish third and earn two points, while Kavod was best of the on-pace runners in fourth, earning one point. All are worth following as the Derby preps continue.
By Alastair Bull
|1||Dash Attack 7-1||$17.40||$8.60||$5.60|
|10||Barber Road 8-1||$9.80||$6.80|