Kentucky Derby 2020 prep grades: Smarty Jones Stakes

January 27, 2020 11:20am
Kentucky Derby 2020 prep grades: Smarty Jones Stakes
Photo: Coady Photography

Last week, the Smarty Jones Stakes served as the lone 2020 Kentucky Derby prep on the calendar, beginning Oaklawn Park's series of races that proceed with the Southwest Stakes (G3), Rebel Sakes (G2 and Arkansas Derby (G1). The top choices were upset in the Smarty Jones by a horse that will likely be limited in distance, but the race could still prove meaningful down the line.

Smarty Jones Stakes

Gold Street
On the Board: Three Technique, Shoplifted
Distance/Time: 1 mile; 1:39.63
Winning Beyer: 95
Grade: A-

Analysis: The final time, nor the final splits, don't stand out. But the track was muddy and playing slow, which also reflected in races earlier on Oaklawn's opening Friday card. Notably, Gold Street's final time for the mile was faster than any other mile split that afternoon; it was a quality race.

But track conditions also mean varying forecasts for the top finishers moving forward. It's fair to assume Gold Street, by Street Boss, will regress over fast dirt -- all three of his wins were over off tracks -- and that the short stretch configuration of the Smarty Jones benefitted him.

You have to go back to Will Take Charge in 2013 to find a Smarty Jones winner who was able to prevail in a route race that favors sprinters, yet then also excelled going longer to finish his 3-year-old campaign. In between, winners who failed to succeed stretching out include Discreetness (2016) and Gray Attempt (2019).

That said, the Smarty Jones runner-up Three Technique ran well, even if he looked a bit short off the bench. The Mr speaker colt, twice a winner in New York, was off slow before using some gas to secure a stalking position in fourth. He traveled wide from there, including when making his final move.

Given the nature of the track and his trip, the fact that Three Technique flattened out in the later stages can be forgiven. He could be a force in future preps at Oaklawn.

Trainer Steve Asmussen saddled the winner, Gold Street, but did not seem concerned about the finishes of third-place Shoplifted and Silver Prospector in fourth. Both entered off prior victories on the Derby trail and offer running styles not conducive to Friday's trip. They'll get other chances locally.

So, overall, I do believe the Smarty Jones will make an impact later on the trail. The winner ran like a solid front-runner, and the runner-up should move forward in his next start. How far Gold Street will ultimately go is a question his connections should be excited to answer after this performance.


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Meet Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2002. At that point, she fell in love with the sport, reading every piece of news and information she could get her fingertips on.

Laura has a long history with horses in general, taking her first ride on her fifth birthday, with her first official riding lesson when she was eight years old. Both years she attended college, she joined her school’s equestrian team, first at Virginia Intermont College and then again at Delaware State University. Unfortunately, after back and shoulder injuries, she had to hang up her saddle. 

In 2010, Laura began writing for Horse Racing Nation and has also contributed to Lady and the Track, TwinSpires and USRacing. She currently works at a local newspaper as a community reporter.

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