Undefeated Smarty Jones, who is expected to go off a solid favorite in Saturday's $1 million Arkansas Derby (gr. II), will break from the outside post position in the 11-horse field that was drawn Wednesday.
Trained by John Servis, Smarty Jones has won both the Southwest and Rebel Stakes at the Oaklawn meet, and is eligible to win a $5 million bonus if he should win the Arkansas Derby and the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). The son of Elusive Quality, however, has no graded earnings and needs a first- or second-place finish on Saturday to assure a place in the Derby field.
Smarty Jones will have to break alertly under Stewart Elliott to secure a position going into the first turn or he will be in danger of getting caught wide. The two horses immediately to his inside, Pro Prado and Harvard Avenue, are come-from-behind horses, whom he should have no problem outrunning.
Expected to provide the main competition for Smarty Jones is the California invader, Borrego, who drew post 1. The son of El Prado
finished a fast-closing second in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) last time out. Prior to that, he was second to Master David in the nine-furlong Sham Stakes. Victor Espinoza will ride the colt for trainer Beau Greely.
Another horse who is eligible to upset the favorite is the Todd Pletcher-trained Purge, who was second to Smarty Jones in the Rebel, setting the pace in only his third career start, and first beyond six furlongs. Pletcher will take the blinkers off the son of Pulpit
, and is expecting a much-improved effort. Cornelio Velasquez will be aboard and will break from post 5.
Also expected to show big improvement is Team Valor's Shadowland, who was moving to the leaders along the rail in the Louisiana Derby when jockey Pat Day had to steady behind horses for a good sixteenth of a mile, then got shut off when he tried to come through a small opening on the rail. The son of Distant View
drew post 3, and will again be ridden by Day, who chose to ride Shadowland over Tampa Bay Derby winner Limehouse in the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I).
This is a very deep field, with several others who could be pull the upset, namely Tricky Taboo, a fast-closing second in the Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) at Turfway Park, and Harvard Avenue, who was third behind Preachinatthebar and St Averil in the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II). Pro Prado always runs his race, winning the the Mountain Valley Stakes, then finishing third to Smarty Jones in the Southwest and Rebel.
One horse looking to return to his old form in Mr. Jester, who inexplicably ran a well-beaten sixth in the Rebel as the 2-1 second choice behind the favored Purge. Prior to that, the son of Silver Deputy
was second in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) at Fair Grounds and won the $1 million Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs.
D. Wayne Lukas, who is desperately looking for a Kentucky Derby horse, will send out Hasslefree, who was 10th in the San Rafael Stakes (gr. II) in his 3-year-old debut, then finished sixth in the Lane's End. Lukas feels he would have had a big chance to win had he not gotten bumped hard coming out of the gate. Tim Doocy will be aboard the son of Forestry
Mambo Train will be shipping in from California for trainer Marcelo Polanco following hios victory in the Turf Paradise Derby on Feb. 7.
Earlier on the card, Team Valor's Tiger Hunt, winner of the Miller Genuine Draft Cradle Stakes and second in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity (gr. II) last year, will make his 3-year-old debut in the one-mile Northern Spur Stakes, in which we'll face stakes horses Proper Prado and Two Down Automatic.
The field for the $1 million, group II Arkansas Derby:
1 -- Borrego, Beau Greely, Victor Espinoza, 118
2 -- Mambo Train, Marcelo Polanco, Emille Ramsammy, 122
3 -- Shadowland, Ralph nicks, Pat Day, 118
4 -- Every Adventure, Tom Amoss, Calvin Borel, 118
5 -- Purge, Todd Pletcher, Cornelio Velasquez, 118
6 -- Tricky Taboo, Edward Frederick, Tony D'Amico, 118
7 -- Mr. Jester, Steve Wren, R. Chapa, 122
8 -- Hasslefree, D. Wayne Lukas, Tim Doocy, 118
9 -- Harvard Avenue, Doug O'Neill, Jon Court, 122
10 -- Pro Prado, Robert Holthus,, John McKee, 122
11 -- Smarty Jones, John Servis, Stewart Elliott, 122