Junebugred made his 2012 debut a winning one, but it was close. The gritty chestnut son of Corinthian defeated 17-1 longshot Reckless Jerry by a neck in the $100,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds (VIDEO) at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas Jan. 16.
On Fire Baby, the favorite and the only filly in the field of 12 runners, finished third, a length behind the runner-up. The grade II-winning daughter of Smoke Glacken was a half-length in front of Jake Mo, who edged Laurie's Rocket by a neck for fourth.
Ridden by Joe Bravo and sent off the third betting choice at 6-1, Junebugred covered a mile in 1:38.45 over a dirt surface that was rated “fast.” The effort gave him his second victory in three career races. Last year, the colt fished third in a six-furlong maiden-special-weight event at Monmouth Park in mid-October. Then he won by a length at a mile at Aqueduct in November.
Steve Hobby was Junebugred’s trainer for the Smarty Jones, but colt was saddled by David Fawkes last year. Alex and JoAnn Lieblong own Junebugred, who was bred in Kentucky by Gainesway Thoroughbreds. The Lieblongs purchased the colt for $20,000 from Gainesway, agent, at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Laurie’s Rocket was the early leader in the Smarty Jones, but had to battle with No Spin all the way into the far turn while setting fractions of :23.68, :48.20 and 1:12.73. Jake Mo stayed close to those two and On Fire Baby wasn’t far away, but she ended up four wide while approaching the stretch.
Meanwhile, Reckless Jerry, who had been as far back as seventh, rallied on the outside and Junebugred, who had been running in fifth after dropping back from fourth, found room along rail at the top of the stretch to make his bid. Junebugred grabbed the lead nearing the wire and then held off the hard-charging Reckless Jerry while On Fire Baby was drawing closer.
Earning $60,000 for his Smarty Jones victory, Junebugred raised his earnings to $95,400. He paid $14.80, $7, and $4.60 to his supporters. Reckless Jerry returned $12.80 and $6.20 while On Fire Baby paid $2.60.
Junebugred is out of the winning Dixieland Band mare Dixie Melody, who finished third in the 1998 Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II). He is a half brother to added-money winner Joe Six Pack (by Silver Deputy).