HOT SPRINGS, AR – Dwight Pruett’s Gray Attempt sprung sharply from the gates to take the early lead and never relinquished it en route to wiring the 12th running of the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Friday.

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Breaking widest of all from post 8 at 2/1 odds under Shaun Bridgmohan, Gray Attempt found himself on the lead without being rushed and was able to clear the field before crossing over and leading into the first turn. Settling comfortably 3 paths off of the rail, the Jinks Fires trainee posted opening fractions of :23.12, :46.86, and 1:11.01 while still very much in hand. Given the cue midway through the far turn, Gray Attempt emerged onto the front stretch with a diminishing lead. Long Range Toddy, winner of the $400,000 Springboard Mile last out, squirted through along the inside and began creeping closer and closer, but Gray Attempt dug in and fought back. The short run to the finish line proved to be the difference-maker as the pacesetter crossed with a neck advantage in a final time of 1:36.94 for the mile-long event over the fast main track.

“He left there like we thought he would,” Fires said. “I knew with Steve (Asmussen, trainer) having three in there, he’d send at least one of them. Our horse just had enough speed to overcome it. We’re staying right here, and if everything goes well, we’ll go in the (Grade 3) Southwest (Stakes on February 18).”

Boldor attempted to shoot around his winning stablemate’s right in the far turn, and despite not being able to close in the final steps, was able to finish another neck back in third, a length past Six Shooter and Sleepy Eyes Todd. Finishing a disappointing sixth was Bankit, the 3/2 favorite who most recently finished a fast-closing head behind Long Range Toddy in the Springboard Mile.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed as heck in Bankit, but Long Range Toddy and Boldor both ran solid,” Asmussen said. “Kind of a merry-go-round race. They went in 46-and-change fractions. That’s pretty solid, but nobody changed any positions. First day of the meet, things will change. We’ll see what happens.”

Super Steed and Forloveofcountry completed the order of finish. Jack Van Berg was scratched, opting instead to run in a first-level allowance race here on Saturday.

The Smarty Jones is part of the Road to the 2019 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Gray Attempt earned 10 points for the win, with Long Range Toddy receiving 4 for second, Boldor 2 for third, and Six Shooter 1 for fourth.

The field breaks from the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes gates (Credit: Coady Photography)

Gray Attempt’s win was his third straight following his first stakes score in the $75,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes, which is contested at 6 furlongs on the Fair Grounds main track. The 3-year-old son of Graydar, purchased for $50,000 as a yearling, increased his lifetime earnings to $184,700.

Gray Attempt returned $6.40 to win, $4.20 to place, and $3.40 to show. Long Range Toddy brought back $5.60 to place and $3.60 to show, while Boldor paid $5.20 to show.