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Oaklawn Park is back for another exciting season, and the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes is set for the feature race of Opening Day this Friday. A strong field of nine horses will contest the event, which will go off as race eight on a strong nine-race card. The Smarty Jones is the first of four Kentucky Derby Prep events that will be contested at the track this season. Local post time for the race is set for 3:52 PM CT.
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen will send out four horses in the race, all of whom have enjoyed stakes success: the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) winner Silver Prospector, the Springboard Mile winner Shoplifted, the Sugar Bowl winner Gold Street, and the Clever Trevor winner Jungle Runner. This foursome should prove to be a formidable group, making it tough for anyone to ship in and win the race. Silver Prospector will break from post 2 with Ricardo Santana, Jr., aboard. Roman Vazquez will ride Jungle Runner from post 4, Gold Street with Martin Garcia aboard will break from post 5, and Shoplifted breaks from post 6 with Tyler Gaffalione coming in for the mount.
The main threat shipping from out of town is Lynn’s Map, who scratched from last weekend’s Lecomte Stakes (G3) after drawing the far outside post. The Mark Casse trainee won a tough allowance event at Fair Grounds last time out, defeating Mr. Monomoy, who came back to run third in the previously-mentioned Lecomte. Lynn’s Map will break from post 8 in this race with Miguel Mena coming in for the ride.
An interesting addition to Oaklawn Park this year is New York-based trainer Jeremiah Englehart, who brings the talented Three Technique with him. This colt broke his maiden in impressive fashion two races back at Saratoga before dominating allowance foes last time out at Aqueduct. Those victories have him ready to try his hand at stakes company, and this is a logical starting -off point. Top-notch jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., comes to Oaklawn Park to the ride the colt from the far outside post of 9.
The full field from the rail out: Lykan, Silver Prospector, Shared Sense, Nucky, Jungle Runner, Gold Street, Shoplifted, Lynn’s Map, and Three Technique.
#2 Silver Prospector – Since moving to the dirt, this horse has been strong, winning two of three starts. Last time out, he picked up an impressive victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2), defeating the heavily-favored Tiz the Law by 3/4 of a length. If he can repeat that effort in this spot, then he should be difficult to beat. It’s also a very good sign that Ricardo Santana, Jr., picked this horse to ride over the other Asmussen entries. He probably could have been on any of his four horses in this spot, so this likely means that the barn believes that Silver Prospector is the best of the bunch.
#7 Shoplifted – This might be Steve Asmussen’s classiest 3-year-old at this point. After breaking his maiden at Saratoga, Shoplifted appeared in three straight Grade 1 events but was only able to pick up one on-the-board finish, in the Hopeful Stakes (G1). After a lengthy defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), Asmussen dropped the horse down in class, leading to a determined victory in the Remington Park Springboard Mile. That boosted his confidence and this field looks manageable. He seems to have a big shot to make it two in a row.
#8 Lynn’s Map – He appears ready for stakes competition after winning two tough races in a row. Two starts back, he broke his maiden at Churchill Downs in impressive fashion. That led to an allowance event at Fair Grounds where, after a determined late rally, he edged clear of the pace-setting Mr. Monomoy to win by a head. He draws an outside post for this race, but this is a much better spot than the 14-hole last week at Fair Grounds in the Lecomte Stakes (G3).
#9 Three Technique – It’s time to see how good this horse is after two impressive performances have given him a lot of momentum. The first came at Saratoga, where he dominated maiden special weight foes, before he easily defeated allowance company last time out at Aqueduct. The competition gets tougher here, but he does seem to be ready for the challenge. His running style usually doesn’t suit 1-mile races at Oaklawn Park, which is his only negative. He’s likely going to need some pace up front to get the job done in this spot.
#6 Gold Street – This Steve Asmussen runner comes into the race on a nice roll, winning his last two starts in dominating fashion. Last time out, he tried stakes company for the first time and found solid success in the Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds. Here, he stretches out in distance for the first time, which is his only question mark. Look for his talent to keep him in the race, but his pedigree suggests that he will be better when sprinting.
#3 Shared Sense – Even though he’s still a maiden, there are a few things to like about this colt. Trainer Brad Cox is always tough to beat at Oaklawn Park, and he usually spots horses where they can win. This horse has lost three times, but all were close against quality opponents such as Lynn’s Map, Silver Prospector, and Blackberry Wine. Losses to those strong horses make his speed figures very comparable, so he could pull an upset if he shows improvement.
#4 Nucky – It’s not often that you see a Grade 1 winner get beat by 38 1/4 lengths and 27 1/4 lengths in back-to-back starts, but that is exactly what Nucky has done in his last two efforts since winning the Del Mar Futurity (G1). He needs a major reversal of form if he hopes to have a chance in this spot.
#1 Lykan – He has won just once in seven starts coming into this event, and this will be his first race around two turns. His talent looks to be a bit behind the rest of this field, making him one of the longest shots on the board.
#5 Jungle Runner – Three nice wins in a row at Remington Park had this horse looking solid, but he was well-beaten last time out in the Springboard Mile. This race seems to have come up even tougher, which leaves this runner with a lot of proving to do.
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