Whitmore Still Possible for Smarty Jones
Despite being entered in a Saturday entry-level allowance/optional claiming sprint at Oaklawn, lightly raced Whitmore remains under consideration for Monday’s $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn, trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs said.
Moquett said Thursday morning that Saturday’s race is a “backup plan,” which gives him more time to monitor the potential field for the 1-mile Smarty Jones before making a decision on the gelding’s 3-year-old debut.
The 1-mile Smarty Jones is the first of three major local preps for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 16. Post positions for the race will be drawn Friday.
The expected large field is scheduled to include Southern California-based multiple stakes winner Toews On Ice, who arrived Wednesday for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who has dominated Oaklawn’s major Kentucky Derby prep series in recent years.
“Trying to get experience,” Moquett said. “I want the right kind of experience. If this thing gets as many horses in it as I think it does, then I’m not going to want to be shuffled around and all that business. I’d rather get him some good experience in the next one, when they start weeding themselves out.”
Moquett, who also co-owns Whitmore, said Saturday’s race or the Smarty Jones isn’t necessarily a prep for the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15, Oaklawn’s second major stepping stone to the Arkansas Derby.
“The way I look at it, everything’s a stepping stone to the Arkansas Derby,” Moquett said. “I’m working backwards from the Arkansas Derby. That’s what my owners and I want to do.”
After breaking his maiden Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs, Whitmore, in his only other start, finished fifth in the $1 million Delta Jackpot Stakes (G3) Nov. 21 at Delta Downs.
Synchrony, who is scheduled to make his 3-year-old debut in the Smarty Jones, worked an easy half-mile in :52 just after the track opened Thursday morning for trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel.
Trainer Rodney Richards said Thursday morning that Churchill Downs maiden graduates American Dubai and Black Ops remain under consideration for the Smarty Jones.
A Real ‘Beauty’?
Multiple graded stakes winner Sarah Sis will make her 4-year-old debut in the $100,000 American Beauty Stakes Jan. 23 at Oaklawn, trainer Ingrid Mason said.
Mason said the 6-furlong American Beauty is a prep for a return to two turns in the $100,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) Feb. 14 at Oaklawn.
“She’s doing great,” Mason said Thursday morning. “She worked great the other day, so I have to say she’s ready to run.” Sarah Sis posted a 5-furlong bullet (1:00) Jan. 8.
Sarah Sis won 4 of 10 starts last year, including the $250,000 Raven Run Stakes (G2) Oct. 17 at Keeneland and the $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 7 at Oaklawn. She was freshened after the Raven Run and returned to the work tab New Year’s Eve at Oaklawn, breezing a half-mile in :49.40.
By the Numbers
Entries for Friday’s nine-race card at Oaklawn were the highest for a scheduled season opener in seven years.
Ninety-nine horses were entered Tuesday, the second-highest total since 104 in 2009.
Oaklawn’s first scheduled card of 2015 drew 92 entrants, but the start of the season was delayed six days because of severe winter weather. The redrawn opening card had 104 entrants.
Friday’s program attracted five full fields (12 horses) and two 11-horse fields.
Bold Conquest moved closer to his 4-year-old debut by working 5 furlongs in company in 1:01.60 moments after the track opened Thursday morning. Six-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen was on hand for the work. … Saturday’s $100,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses drew a full field of 12, including millionaire and multiple graded stakes winner Departing, multiple stakes winner Smack Smack and Street Strategy, seventh in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) Oct. 30 at Keeneland in his last start. Trainer Randy Morse said Thursday morning that Street Strategy (foot bruise) is still scheduled to run in the 1 1/16-mile race. … Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Mr. Z now isn’t expected to rejoin his barn at Oaklawn until “midwinter.” Mr. Z is on an extended break following a 12-race campaign last year that ended with an eighth-place finish in the $500,000 Clark Handicap (G1) Nov. 27 at Churchill Downs. Mr. Z ran third in three Kentucky Derby prep races last year at Oaklawn, including the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1). … Training hours Friday are 7 a.m.-9:30 a.m. (Central), with no break to renovate the surface. The track normally closes at 10:30 a.m. First post for Friday’s opening-day card is 12:35 p.m., a half-hour earlier than normal.