Hot Springs, Ark. (Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016) – Oaklawn kicks off its rich Derby prep series Monday with the $150,000 Smarty Jones led by multiple stakes winner Toews On Ice, the 9-5 program favorite for the one-mile race. The race is worth a total of 17 points towards Kentucky Derby eligibility with the winner receiving 10 points.
Among the previous winners of the Smarty Jones are multiple Grade 1 winner Caleb’s Posse, 2013 champion 3-year-old Will Take Charge and Far Right, who went on to win the 2015 Southwest Stakes and finished second in the Arkansas Derby behind the 2015 Horse of the Year and Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. The race is named for the 2004 champion 3-year-old who swept Oaklawn’s Southwest, Rebel and Arkansas Derby before winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
“There’s always a bit of Derby fever that takes over this time of year,” said trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel, who is scheduled to send out Synchrony for his 3-year-old debut in the Smarty Jones. “I’m sure a lot of people are seeing the success horses have had that have come through Oaklawn in the Triple Crown series. It would be hard to rival it right, I think.”
Toews On Ice arrived Wednesday from his Southern California base for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who will be starting a horse in the Smarty Jones for the first time. Baffert, though, has had a stranglehold on Oaklawn’s 3-year-old stakes series recently, winning the Southwest, Rebel and Arkansas Derby a combined 11 times since 2010.
Toews On Ice is scheduled to break from post 2 under Martin Garcia and carry top weight of 122 pounds. A son of 2011 Arkansas Derby winner Archarcharch, he won 3 of 6 starts last year, including the $100,000 Bob Hope Stakes (G3) Nov. 14 at Del Mar. In his final start at 2, he finished second in the $350,000 Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) Dec. 19 at Los Alamitos.
The 9-2 second choice in the program is Synchrony, who will be making his stakes and two-turn debut. A son of Tapit out of the Von Hemel-trained multiple stakes winner Brownie Points, he won 2 of 3 starts last year, including a Nov. 14 entry-level allowance at Churchill Downs.
Synchrony is a homebred for Josephine Abercrombie’s Pin Oak Stable, a client of Von Hemel’s since 1989.
“We’re happy and ready to go,” Von Hemel said. “I think looking at him as a yearling, he looked like a horse with a lot of potential.”
The 6-1 third choice on the morning line is Discreetness, who exits a nose victory in the $250,000 Springboard Mile Stakes Dec. 13 at Remington Park for trainer Jinks Fires of Hot Springs.
Discreetness tuned up for the Smarty Jones with a 5-furlong bullet workout Jan. 7 (:59.80) under regular rider Jon Court, the trainer’s son-in-law. Fires and Court teamed for a fourth-place finish with favored Archarcharch in the 2011 Smarty Jones before winning the Arkansas Derby.
Court said he’s happy with the way Discreetness is coming into the race.
“It’s kind of exciting because he continues to move forward,” Court said. “That work the other day is a prime example.”
A field of 14 is entered in the Smarty Jones, which goes as the eighth of nine races. Probable post time is 4:38 p.m. (Central). However, Whitmore and Knights Key have already been declared from the race by their trainers and one or two more are expected to scratch by post time.
The complete field in post position order with riders and morning line odds: Luna de Loco, Ricardo Santana Jr., 15-1; Toews On Ice, Martin Garcia, 9-5; Gordy Florida, Glenn Corbett, 10-1; Charming Deputy, Santo Sanjur, 15-1; Discreetness, Jon Court, 6-1; Back Togetheragain, Shane Laviolette, 15-1; Black Ops, Calvin Borel, 12-1; Synchrony, Shaun Bridgmohan, 9-2; Whitmore, Didiel Osorio, 15-1; Gray Sky, Terry Thompson, 15-1; Shogood, Chris Emigh, 12-1; Cutacorner, Quincy Hamilton, 15-1; Force It, Julio Felix, 15-1, and Knights Key, Joe Rocco Jr., 12-1.
Source: Oaklawn Park