Analysis: Asmussen duo stands out in Smarty Jones Stakes

January 21, 2020 09:55am
Analysis: Asmussen duo stands out in Smarty Jones Stakes
Photo: Coady Photography
When examining a high-level stakes race, it is always nice to see a horse show past success against quality horses. When recent class combines with top figures, that becomes almost impossible to ignore.

Such is the case in Oaklawn Park's $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes on Friday afternoon. The potential favorite Silver Prospector displays a Grade 2 victory to his credit, ties for the highest last-race speed figure as well as the highest overall number on my preferred TimeformUS scale.

Silver Prospector is the choice in this field of nine. But my analysis will also offer an alternative in Steve Asmussen-trained stablemate Shoplifted. First, let's take a closer look at Silver Prospector's most recent start.

In a mild 7-1 surprise, Silver Prospector won the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs in late November. The key part is that he rated instead of contesting the pace, unlike in the Street Sense Stakes when he faded.

Watch Silver Prospector go slightly wide around the first turn before settling behind the leaders in sixth. He does not resent the change in tactics. 

On the far turn, Silver Prospector made his move wide and outkicked a troubled Tiz the Law and Finnick the Fierce to win by ¾ of a length. Enforceable, who on Saturday rebounded to win the Lecomte Stakes (G3), encountered some trouble as he closed for fourth.

Silver Prospector won under a drive, but it is important to note the class of the three horses he defeated. Tiz the Law previously won the Champagne Stakes (G1) last October in his second career start and endured a difficult trip for his experience level in the Kentucky Jockey Club. Enforceable ground his way to victory in the Lecomte Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds last weekend, and Finnick the Fierce finished fourth in the same race, this time at shorter odds.

In terms of numbers, Silver Prospector earned a 103 from TimeformUS, which ties with Shoplifted as the best last-race speed figure in the field. Three races ago in his form, Silver Prospector also earned a 111 while breaking his maiden in a Keeneland sprint, giving him the highest overall figure of this bunch, too.

With Silver Prospector likely to rate again behind Smarty Jones Stakes speed horses in Lykan, Nucky and Gold Street, he will fall into a good striking position.

At 8-5 or higher, Silver Prospector is fair odds to win his second straight stakes race.

For those seeking an alternative, the best option is Shoplifted. He won the Remington Springboard Mile last month after a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and distant fifth in the American Pharoah Stakes (G1).

Similar to Silver Prospector, Shoplifted went slightly wide around the first turn in the Springboard Mile and settled behind the pacesetters in sixth.

Shoplifted then moved wide on the far turn and took aim at Embolden, while Answer In also attacked from the inside. The three of them battled.

From the outside, Shoplifted slowly gained the advantage under a hard drive to win by a head over Answer In, while Embolden became a touch tired late and finished a half length behind the first two in third. 

The quality of horses Shoplifted defeated is not as impressive, but it's possible they have bright futures, too. Answer In previously broke his maiden by 5 ¼ lengths at Churchill Downs, and Embolden showed class on turf by finishing third in the Futurity Stakes (G3) and second in the Atlantic Beach Stakes.

As stated above, Shoplifted earned a 103 on TimeformUS, as well as an 85 Beyer Speed Figure and 93 Brisnet Speed Rating. The 85 is the highest last-race Beyer, and the 93 ties for the highest last-race Brisnet number.

Shoplifted's class is probably not as high as Silver Prospector. In terms of speed figures, though, it's hard to ignore.

Asmussen's go-to rider, Ricardo Santana Jr., abandoned Shoplifted for Silver Prospector. Just last weekend, he chose correctly when opting to pilot Silver State in the Lecomte. Still, for those backing Shoplifted, Tyler Gaffalione is a fine replacement, and on paper it looks like Santana Jr. had a difficult choice to make.

If an A or B option is needed alongside Silver Prospector, Shoplifted is the horse.

Asmussen is represented by four entries total in this race. Of the remaining two, Gold Street will attract the most attention with his recent flashy wins. He broke his maiden by seven lengths in a six-furlong Churchill Downs sprint and went on to take the Sugar Bowl Stakes by 3 ½ lengths at Fair Grounds in another six-furlong sprint.

Gold Street's speed figures are high on Brisnet. However, it is not the best sign that the connections kept Gold Street in five straight sprint races at six furlongs or less. When a horse is a true router, the trainer will know and stretch him out sooner than later. Gold Street will need to prove himself.

Some attention will also fall towards Lynn's Map, who mowed down Mr. Monomoy in an optional claimer at Fair Grounds over a sloppy track. He does own good tactical speed, but out of the four one mile and 70 yard races on the Dec. 21 card, his final time of 1:45.09 was the slowest.

For what it is worth, Mr. Monomoy did run a close third in the Lecomte behind Enforceable and Silver State, two legitimate runners on the Derby trail. That is a point in Lynn's Map's corner. But Silver Prospector and Shoplifted are still preferred given proven stakes experience.

If Lynn's Map runs well in this spot, then he will be considered in future Derby prep races. He needs to definitively prove his class and speed.

Also, Three Technique shows some fast races from last summer at Saratoga. But he drew Post 9 and does not own the speed to clear the inside early as a midpack runner. For now, this horse is preferable as an underneath option.

Handicappers who use the more traditional Beyer scale may not find Silver Prospector's speed figures as impressive compared to the other contenders. But TimeformUS shows him and Shoplifted as a difficult contenders to ignore. Use both logical Asmussen-trained colts to win.

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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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