Head to Head: Smarty Jones Stakes Stakes 2020 picks

January 23, 2020 12:14pm
Head to Head: Smarty Jones Stakes Stakes 2020 picks
Photo: Coady Photography

Oaklawn Park opens Friday featuring the 13th running of the Smarty Jones Stakes, the first leg of three 2020 Kentucky Derby prep races at the Arkansas track. A field of nine 3-year-old colts will line up to compete at a mile.

Pacesetters with only three-lifetime starts under their girth captured the last three editions of the Smarty Jones Stakes. With that in mind, Ashley Tamulonis of Coast To Coast and I sort out the contenders from the pretenders.

ASHLEY

LAURIE

 
1. LYKAN
 

Saddled by Ingrid Mason, Lykan will be stretching out for the first time after running exclusively in sprints in his first seven starts. His numbers have been trending downward, but he’s had a couple of months away from the races after squishing those seven starts into four months. He comes from a black type female family, but I’m afraid I have to pass.


After breaking his maiden in his fifth start, Lykan’s form has decreased against optional claimers. I’m with Ashley on this one. Pass.



 
2. SILVER PROSPECTOR
 

Winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club STAKES (G2), Silver Prospector is making the Smarty Jones his seasonal debut. That victory was flattered by Enforceable’s coming back to take the Lecomte (G3) victory and Finnick the Fierce running fourth in that event. This colt is a deserving favorite and one to beat. Win contender.
 

Silver Prospector is one of two in the field with proven class. The well-bred Asmussen charge can win from on the lead or from off the pace. Ashley makes a good case about the Kentucky Jockey Club looking like a key race. Win contender.


3. SHARED SENSE

Shared Sense’s second dam is Grade 1 Composure who, in turn, produced Grade 1-placed  daughters Centring and Penwith. Unfortunately, Shared Sense has yet to find the winner’s circle, though he does have a pair of runner-up efforts. Florent Geroux hops aboard for the first time for trainer Brad Cox. The layoff and a fast track could move this one up. I’m considering him as a longshot to play.
 

Shared Sense is still a maiden. Although he passed tired horses in his last start, the internal splits were slow, and he was simply the best of a mediocre field. In the race before that, his Trakus final splits were decent but not as good as Lynn’s Map, who he’ll face again Friday. This well-bred colt may have matured over the winter, and I like his second-to-last bullet move. He could be a sneaky longshot exotic play.

 
4. NUCKY
 

This son of Ghostzapper appeared to be on the upswing back in late summer when he dominated a maiden claiming event in route to upsetting the Del Mar Futurity (G1). He completely bombed in his last two outings, however, including getting whipped in a listed stakes at Laurel. His 10-1 morning line odds are not high enough to make me take a chance. Pass.

The highlights of Nucky’s career came back to back with a 10-length maiden victory followed by the Futurity, but only when future Grade 1 winners Eight Rings and Storm the Court lost their riders. Nucky was well beaten in the American Pharoah (G1) and the listed Heft Stakes last time. Pass.

 

 
5. JUNGLE RUNNER
 

One of Asmussen’s man aspiring Derby contenders, Jungle Runner has been running well at Remington Park. He could only manage fourth in the Springboard Mile, but he had a less than ideal trip there. His numbers do not fit with the best of this field, though this is as good a place as any to test the waters. Pass. 

Jungle Runner raced mid-pack in the Springboard Mile and faced a wall of horses around the turn. Once clear, he passed a tired horse for fourth. The Asmussen trainee won his two previous starts by 5 1/2-lengths. The last horse to win the Clever Trevor and finish off the board in the Springboard Mile was 2011 Smarty Jones winner Calebs Posse. Intriguing longshot contender, if you want to spread the money around.

 
6. GOLD STREET
 

The third of Asmussen’s entrants here, Gold Street looks like your pacesetter. He has not been threatened in either of his last two races, including a stakes win at Fair Grounds, but this will be his first time stretching out. His speed figures fit, with distance the question. Additionally, I find it troubling that both of his victories have been in the slop. So if it rains, play this one on top. Otherwise, exotics.

The speedy Gold Street has improved his Brisnet Speed Ratings in each of his five starts while sprinting. Now we get to see if the free-running colt go farther. Regular rider Ricardo Santana Jr. sticks with Silver Prospector as Martin Garcia assumes this mount. As Ashley noted, both of Gold Street’s  victories were over a sloppy track, but he’s only been off the board in one start. Exotics for me, too.
 

 
7. SHOPLIFTED
 

This Into Mischief colt completes the Asmussen quartet. Last year he earned black type by running second in the Hopeful (G1) but couldn’t maintain that form in the American Pharoah (G1) or the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. A drop in class saw him take the Springboard Mile, which I’m sure was a confidence booster for Shoplifted. He gets some classier competition here, but I see him cracking the superfecta.

Granted, Shoplifted had a wide trip in the Springboard Mile, yet he was all out while fighting with a stubborn Embolden and Answer In. Is he in the same class level as his stablemate Silver Prospector? Will he regress off a hard race in the Springboard mile? We’ll find out. Exotics.

 

 
8. LYNN'S MAP
 

wide draw in last week’s Lecomte led to trainer Mark Casse entering here instead. Lynn’s Map won his last two starts, including a 1-mile, 70-yard allowance over Mr. Monomoy. The final times were nothing to write home about, but his Brisnet late pace figures say that he could be dangerous in the stretch. Contender.

Lynn’s Map made a sustained run into glacial fractions in his last race and earned the head bob victory over Mr. Monomoy. That one came back to be a neck shy of a runner-up in the Lecomte. Lynn’s Map doesn’t win by much, but he gets the job done. Contender.

 

 
9. THREE TECHNIQUE
 

Three Technique takes his first step on the Kentucky Derby trail after consecutive victories last year. His work tab doesn’t indicate that he’s fully cranked, and perhaps he’ll need a start. Nonetheless, his pedigree says a mile should be comfortable for him. Exotics Contender.

Shipping in from New York for trainer Englehart, Three Technique is also on a winning streak. The Mr. Speaker colt won his last two quite easily, but like several others in this field, this will be his first attempt at stretching out. Three Technique was never out of the exacta on the NYRA circuit and could be one to watch out for here.
 


Final Thoughts

Ashley: 
If Asmussen does not saddle the winner, I will be shocked. He sends out four, including the favorite Silver Prospector. I see this as a pretty straightforward race and will not be trying to get fancy.

Laurie:
 I’ll go with Lynn’s Map over the Asmussen quartet. He fits the profile of the last three winners being lightly raced. Brisnet’s stats for Oaklawn’s 2019 meet showed 47% of the early speed types were successful.  

Selections

Ashley 

Laurie 

#2 Silver Prospector (5-2)

#8 Lynn’s Map (6-1)

#9 Three Technique (9-2)

#2 Silver Prospector (5-2)

#8 Lynn’s Map (6-1)

#6 Gold Street (5-1)

#7 Shoplifted (3-1)

#3 Shared Sense (12-1)

 

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Through hands-on work at barns, I learned valuable lessons about Thoroughbred conformation, gait, and temperament and later worked withThoroughbred rescue/re-train organizations. I have committed my passion for horses to the intensive study of pedigree and breeding theory for the last 20 years. 


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