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2023 Smarty Jones Stakes Replay | Victory Formation Stays Unbeaten After Kentucky Derby Prep
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2023 Smarty Jones Stakes Replay | Victory Formation Stays Unbeaten After Kentucky Derby Prep

Victory Formation won the 2023 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park to earn 10 points toward the 2023 Kentucky Derby (G1). The Brad Cox trainee is now undefeated through 3 starts and could be a legitimate threat in the Run for the Roses. Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The track press release:

Spendthrift Farm LLC and Frank Fletcher Racing Operations Inc.’s Victory Formation is a perfect three for three after living up to expectations as the heavy 3-5 favorite with his dominating victory in Sunday’s $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes.

Victory Formation, ridden by Flavien Prat, broke on top and never looked back, setting early fractions of :23 1/5 and :47 3/5 for the first half mile. He was still well in hand as they turned into the stretch and drew off to win authoritatively by three lengths over his stable mate Angel of Empire, who closed well from seventh. The winning time for the one mile was 1:38 over a fast track.

Denington was third and was followed by Western Ghent, How Did He Do That, Ten Days Later, Communication Memo and C J’s Storm.

With the win, Victory Formation, collected 10 points towards eligibility in the May 6 Kentucky Derby (G1) and is now ranked sixth among the top 20 point-earners. Angel of Empire received four points and is ranked 15th. Denington, who already had one point, received three points for third and is now ranked 17th with four total points. Western Ghent received two points for fourth and How Did He Do That got one point for fifth, but neither horse is in the top 20 currently. The Kentucky Derby field is limited to 20 horses.

Victory Formation, a Tapwrit colt, has now earned $282,285 from his three career wins. He returned $3.20, $2.80 and $2.20.

Live racing resumes Friday, Jan. 6, with a 12:30 p.m. first post. The next race in Oaklawn’s rich series for 3-year-olds with Kentucky Derby aspirations is the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Jan. 28.

Stakes Quotes

Winning trainer Brad Cox (Victory Formation): “He’s a nice horse. This horse has a great mind. He doesn’t overdo it in the morning. He settles and I think the farther the better. He’s got a lot of natural speed. He’s able to put himself in good position and he was able to turn off and settle and finish up with good strides there. The breeding suggested he would go long. You never really know (go two turns) until they do it. He has to confirm it. We have opinions, horses have the answers. He gave us the right answer today.”

Cox on runner-up Angel of Empire: “Nice horse and the longer they go, the better he’s going to get. Excited about him.”

Winning jockey Flavien Prat: “He broke really well. I didn’t have much of a game plan before the race. I was just hoping to get him into the race and get a good spot. When he broke so well, he got us into the lead and from the point I was just cruising all the way around. He responded really well when I asked him to make a little move.”

Winning owner Frank Fletcher: “I loved it when I saw the (half-mile) time. I’ve learned to watch the times. He went in (:47.75) and that’s pretty slow. I was worried he had to come out of the 8 (post) position and give a lot of energy. I thought he would be in the lead when he went into the first turn. So, I was watching the time. That’s what kind of keys me, how fast they’re going. Sometimes, they give out. He seemed to be well in hand.”