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HOT SPRINGS, AR – More than a decade after winning the final major local Arkansas Derby prep, trainer Mac Robertson will try to capture the first when he sends out Martini Blu, a sharp winner of his only career start, in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds January 22 at Oaklawn.
The 1-mile Smarty Jones is Oaklawn’s first of four Kentucky Derby (G1) points races and highlights the opening-day 9-race program. Probable post time for the Smarty Jones, which goes as the eighth race, is 4:11 PM Central. It is the first of 33 scheduled stakes races during the 57-day meeting that ends May 1.
The Smarty Jones will offer 17 points (10-4-2-1) to the top four finishers, respectively, toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. Oaklawn’s Kentucky Derby points series continues with the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) February 15, $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) March 13, and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 10.
Post positions for the Smarty Jones were drawn Friday, with Martini Blu among the seven horses entered. Robertson sprang an upset in the 2009 Rebel with late-running Win Willy (56/1) and Martini Blu will represent the trainer’s second Smarty Jones starter after Stormy Holiday finished fourth in 2013.
Martini Blu, a son of Maclean’s Music, already owns a victory around two turns after winning his December 27 career debut at Hawthorne by 5 1/4 lengths when under the care of Robertson’s father, trainer Hugh Robertson. Martini Blu, who stalked the leader, covered 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:42.70 over a fast track to earn a Beyer Speed Figure of 64.
“He was kind of a speed-crazy horse this summer and I didn’t want to run him,” Mac Robertson said. “He was showing too much speed, just go to the front. Sometimes it takes longer than you would like for them to tone down a little, even their first time. Once you run them, it’s hard to slow them down, but he rated some the first time, passed horses, and probably got something out of the race.”
Robertson said Martini Blu was green-lighted for the Smarty Jones after working a 1/2-mile in :49.80 over a fast track Thursday morning at Oaklawn. He had previously been breezing at Hawthorne.
“He worked good over this surface, and it’s not like there’s a two-turn race any time soon,” Robertson said. “It just made practical sense.”
A $40,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase in 2019, Martini Blu is owned by Robertson’s longtime client, Novogratz Racing Stables Inc. (Joseph Novogratz). Robertson and Novogratz also campaign multiple stakes winner Amy’s Challenge, who is scheduled to make her 2021 debut in the $150,000 American Beauty Stakes for older female sprinters January 30 at Oaklawn.
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