They start the path to the Arkansas Derby on Monday at Oaklawn Park with the $150,000 Smarty Jones, going one mile (Smarty Jones won the next three legs in this series – the Southwest, Rebel, and Arkansas Derby, in 2004).
Wayne Catalano has the favorite, Uncontested, who comes here off a solid fourth place finish behind the impressive McCracken at Churchill Downs.
Let’s take a look.
Petrov (5-2) had a tricky trip, being cautiously handled, in his start in the King’s Swan at Aqueduct going six furlongs. It is discussed here on NYRA’s Trips & Traps (6:20). He broke fine, but was then was grabbed, and then spent the whole race fighting to maintain position that he had given up. When he finally got outside, he was moving well (this is very-well explained in the video by Richard Migliore and Andy Serling). That said, now he has to stretch to a mile, which he should be able to do, though his siblings were sprinters. He can win, I just don’t know that 5-2 is an especially appealing price.
Two horses exit the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs on Thanksgiving weekend, Uncontested (2-1) and Warrior’s Club (7-2). Uncontested broke a hair slow and rushed up to set the pace, which appeared pretty solid, and faded late, while Warrior’s Club had a pretty good stalking trip and while he did finish ahead of Uncontested, he never looked like he was going to win. I prefer Uncontested, who won his debut with a flashy Keeneland blowout, defeating four next-out winners including Classic Rock who returned to win two races at Gulfstream.
Rowdy the Warrior (6-1) comes to Oaklawn for trainer Donnie von Hemel. His last race, Remington Park’s Springboard Mile, was sneaky good. He was 5-wide into the first turn, settled 3-wide, then made a big wide quick move on the far turn, and was trying all the way down to the wire in a race that was dominated on the front end with a very slow pace. It was definitely an improved effort, but he’s just going to have to take another big step forward to get the win.
Unbridled Eagle (8-1) switches from D. Wayne Lukas’ barn to that of Steve Asmussen, but he has not run back to his strong September 3rd maiden win at Saratoga. Granted, a few of those races were on turf, but he handled turf earlier in his two year old season. He’s very tough to trust but worthy of respect on the barn change.
The Play – While there is some other speed in the race, it’s hard to see anyone running with Uncontested early on and I think he will likely wire the field. Our play will be an exacta with Rowdy the Warrior. We’ll play, for a $10 increment, Uncontested over Rowdy the Warrior for $7 and flip it for $3.