A very promising three-year old burst onto the scene on Monday at Oaklawn Park as Uncontested dominated the one-mile Smarty Jones for trainer Wayne Catalano. Uncontested came to Oaklawn after a solid fourth place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club behind McCracken on Thanksgiving weekend and with no McCracken’s in this field, Uncontested blitzed seven rivals in an impressive opener to the Oaklawn Triple Crown prep series.
Fractions – 23.04, 46.21, 1:10.70, 1:36.32
Winning Beyer – 96
Winning Margin – 5 1/4 lengths
While there were some other horses that had been forwardly placed, none had shown to be as fast as Uncontested, and jockey Channing Hill took no prisoners out of the gate and really at no point in the race did it look like he was in trouble. Even on the far turn as Petrov inched closer, he was, as noted by announcer Vic Stauffer, “all in.”
Pace & Flow – This race was dominated on the front end, with Uncontested and Petrov running 1-2 all the way around, but Uncontested set a legitimate pace, not blazing but not slow. While the track was sloppy and sealed, looking at the charts and other races late in the card (it was downgraded to sloppy for the final five races of the day), there did not appear to be any biases, either for inside runners or for speed horses. It was a fair track.
The Winner – The 96 Beyer figure for the race, not a surprisingly high number considering the 5+ length gap to the runner-up and the 4+ length gap from there back to the third place finisher, is the second highest earned in a Derby prep, behind the 102 earned by Classic Empire in the Breeders Cup Juvenile (per this DRF article from Jay Privman).
We’ll still have to see Uncontested pass a horse (he wired the field in his 6.5 furlong debut and led until the 8th pole in the Kentucky Jockey Club) and ration his speed (there’s a big difference between a loose-on-the-lead flat mile and a nine-furlong Arkansas Derby, let alone the 10-furlong Kentucky Derby), but he’s certainly a player.
The Others – Petrov, who earned a solid 86 Beyer in finishing second, should continue to improve for trainer Ron Moquett. Nobody was beating Uncontested on this day, and this was a solid route debut for Petrov, who had just two six-furlong races to his credit.
In our pre-race analysis, we liked Rowdy the Warrior, who rallied well to finish third, though he was obviously no threat. He earned a career-best 79 Beyer, though he has had six career starts, compared to just three apiece for the two horses that beat him. Still, it was another race, like his Springboard Mile at Remington Park in December, that simply did not set up for him. He can be a factor in the remainder of this series at Oaklawn, but will need some more contested pace set-ups.
Warrior’s Club was somewhat chilly on the board for much of the betting and never really picked up his feet, though it’s possible that he didn’t care for the sloppy track. Still, it was a disappointing outcome after he finished ahead of Uncontested in their last start (though Uncontested had a much tougher trip that day, something recognized by the bettors who made that one 6-5).
What’s Next (Arkansas) – The Arkansas Derby trail continues on February 20th (President’s Day) with the Southwest Stakes. Uncontested is expected to make his next start in that race.
What’s Next (Derby Trail) – Our next Derby prep race is on Saturday when a field of 12 lines up in the Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds. Our preview will be up on the site soon.
The full Derby Prep schedule can be found here. There’s nothing next weekend on the Derby trail, with the racing world focused on California Chrome and Arrogate in the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream. Then, beginning February 4th, there are Derby points races each weekend through April 15th.