Arkansas Derby (gr. II) winner Smarty Jones took up residence on the Keeneland backstretch Wednesday following a van ride from Oaklawn Park. Trainer John Servis said Smarty Jones will van over to Churchill Downs on April 23, and will remain there until the Kentucky Derby (gr. I).
"We're just staying at Keeneland for a while because it's quiet, and I'll put some long, slow gallops in him," Servis said. "When we get to Churchill on the 23rd, we'll start getting his game face on. We plan to work him there on the 24th.
"The trip went well, except for some snow in Western Kentucky, which delayed the trip about an hour due to a couple of bad accidents. He shipped in good, and we just walked him this morning. My man called me and said he cleared the shed a couple of times, so it sounds like he shipped pretty good."
Smarty Jones is rapidly becoming the people's horse, with his rags-to-riches story that reads like a soap opera. The Pennsylvania-bred son of Elusive Quality
is now undefeated in six starts and eligible for a $5 million bonus should he win the Derby.
With Smarty Jones at Keeneland, Wood Memorial (gr. I) winner Tapit at trainer Michael Dickinson's Tapeta Farm in Maryland, and Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner Castledale doing all his serious training at Santa Anita, three of the Derby's biggest stars will be absent from Churchill Downs through at least next week. Also, Fountain of Youth (gr. II) winner Read the Footnotes is expected to remain at Palm Meadows training center until the 23rd, and Blue Grass runner-up Lion Heart will stay at Keeneland until at least the Wednesday before the Derby.
Dickinson, who will saddle Paddington in Saturday's Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico, is looking to send Tapit to Churchill on the Tuesday before the Derby, while Castledale could arrive either on that Monday or Wednesday. Trainer Jeff Mullins would like to travel on the Wednesday, but as of now, Tex Sutton's last flight to Kentucky is Monday.
But that doesn't mean there aren't enough good horses at Churchill to keep things hopping pretty good. Blue Grass (gr. I) winner The Cliff's Edge has arrived, along with stablemate Birdstone; Preachinatthebar is already on the grounds, with Wimbledon expected to arrive today; Rock Hard Ten has been at the Downs since last week, and was joined Tuesday by Arkansas Derby runner-up Borrego. Also arriving Tuesday was Wood Memorial runner-up Master David. Pro Prado, third in the Arkansas Derby, has been bedded down in trainer Bob Holthus' barn. Scheduled to arrive on Friday are Dick Mandella's trio of Action This Day, Minister Eric, and Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) hopeful Halfbridled.
Mark Hennig will watch the results of Saturday's Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) before deciding whether to put Eddington, who is just short on graded earnings, on a Sunday flight out of New York. If he decides not to go, and the son of Unbridled winds up getting in the field at a later date, Hennig would ship him on the next scheduled flight.
Todd Pletcher is making arrangements to send 12 horses to Churchill, including his two Derby starters, Pollard's Vision and Limehouse, and possibly Value Plus, while Florida Derby (gr. I) winner Friends Lake likely will leave from Payson Park sometime next week. He is scheduled to work at Payson on Saturday.