Saturday, January 14, 2017

Romeo O Romeo Looks to Rebound in Smarty Jones

Romeo O Romeo will try to rebound from a poor performance late last fall in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds Monday at Oaklawn. A Canadian-bred son of champion Macho Uno, he faded to a 12th-place finish in the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) Nov. 26 at Churchill Downs in his last start.

Romeo O Romeo and stablemate R Fast Life were entered in an entry-level allowance sprint Saturday, but trainer Brian Williamson said he’s “just taking a shot” in the Smarty Jones because the former has a strong off-track pedigree.

“It’s supposed to rain,” Williamson said Friday morning. “He’s supposed to be an A-plus on an off track. I thought I would take a shot for $150,000. I don’t know what happened last time, so I’m just going to throw out that race.”

Romeo O Romeo, in his dirt debut, was beaten 26 lengths by the highly regarded McCraken in the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club.

Romeo O Romeo hadn’t finished worse than third in his first four career starts, including a runner-up finish in the $100,000 Arlington-Washington Futurity (G3) Sept. 10 at Arlington Park.

“I don’t know what happened,” Williamson said. “Got a little excited in the paddock, maybe. That might have contributed a little bit. He was so genuine before that, even though it was his first time on dirt.”

Also entered in the Smarty Jones are Warrior’s Club and Uncontested, third and fourth, respectively, in the Kentucky Jockey Club.

The Smarty Jones offers 17 points toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby, including 10 to the winner.

Oaklawn’s Kentucky Derby prep series continues with the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 20, $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 18 and $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 15.

Finish Lines

The track was rated fast for workouts Saturday morning. … Suddenbreakingnews worked 6 furlongs in 1:13.20 after the renovation break Saturday morning for his yet-to-be announced 4-year-old debut. Trained by Donnie K. Von Hemel, Suddenbreakingnews won the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) last year at Oaklawn before running fifth in the Kentucky Derby. … Alex Birzer’s victory aboard Roma Road ($14.60) in Friday’s fourth race was the 2,984th of his career, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Birzer is trying to become the 173rd jockey to reach 3,000 North American career victories. … Trainer Steve Hobby of Hot Springs had the first official worker of the 2017 Oaklawn season – Red Clay Magic’s half-mile in :49.40 Dec. 5 – and the first winner of the meeting Friday in Precisely Ponti ($13.60) for the Batesville, Ark.-based HWL Partnership. HWL includes Mark Lamberth, vice chairman of the Arkansas Racing Commission, and Bill Walmsley, former local and national president of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. Red Clay Magic is entered in Sunday’s ninth race for owner Alex Lieblong, chairman of the Arkansas Racing Commission. … Marlon St. Julien, riding at Oaklawn for the first time since 2002, rode two winners Friday – Kiss ($11) for trainer Karl Broberg in the third race and Dynamic Impact ($7.60) in the ninth race for trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs. Broberg was the country’s winningest trainer in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Moquett was Oaklawn’s third-leading trainer last year. … Smack Smack earned $25,000 for his runner-up finish in Friday’s $125,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses, increasing his career total to $955,430. Smack Smack is trying to become trainer Don Von Hemel’s first millionaire. … No betting favorite won Friday.

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