Two colts by Holy Bullbattled through the stretch at Oaklawn Park Jan. 21, and it was Kenneth Maier’s Liberty Bull who earned a neck victory over Alex and Joann Lieblong’s Isabull in the $50,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds at one mile.
With Eusebio Razo Jr. riding for trainer Tom Amoss, Liberty Bull, never worse than fifth at any point in the race, moved toward the lead on the far turn, took over in the lane and held a short advantage in the short stretch of the mile run at the Hot Springs, Ark., racetrack. Liberty Bull and Isabull, who raced just behind the winner throughout, brushed a few times in the stretch but the stewards made no change in the order of finish.
Poni Colada, the early leader, was under hounding pressure throughout and faded in the lane to finish sixth.
Fractions for the Smarty Jones were :23.02 for the first quarter-mile, :46.77 for a half-mile, and 1:12.10 for six furlongs. Liberty Bull finished up in 1:38.15 on a track rated fast.
Rich Young Ruler, a maiden winner at Sam Houston Race Park in Texas in his lone start, stalked the leaders and checked in a good third, 3 1/4 lengths behind Isabull. Liberty Bull, the favorite in the field of 12, returned $6 to win.
Liberty Bull, out of the Dehere mare Laughing Sensation, was bred in Kentucky by Lawrence and Janis Levin. The colt broke his maiden at Churchill Downs in November, then finished a distant second behind Sok Sok in the Dec. 22 Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds. The Smarty Jones marked his first start around two turns.
Isabull, trained by Steve Hobby and ridden by Tim Doocy, turned in the best effort of his five-race career. Isabull finished an even sixth after repeated trouble in his only race around two turns (1 1/16 miles) on the Polytrack surface at Keeneland in October. Isabull had gone one mile twice before but around one turn.
The Smarty Jones was the first two-turn 3-year-old stakes of the Oaklawn meet, which began Jan. 18. The track’s 3-year-old series culminates with the $1-million Arkansas Derby (gr. II) in April.