Aptly named Uncontested jumped out to an early lead and never looked back en route to a 5 1/4-length romp in the Smarty Jones Stakes over a sloppy, sealed track at Oaklawn Park on the Martin Luther King holiday card Jan. 16 .
With Channing Hill aboard for his father-in-law trainer Wayne Catalano, Uncontested, sent off as the 6-5 favorite in the eight-horse field, opened up by 1 1/2 lengths down the backstretch after getting the first quarter mile in :23.04. With 9-5 second-choice Petrov giving chase, Uncontested completed the half mile in a quick :46.21.
Continuing to travel at a high cruising speed entering the second turn in the one-mile race, Uncontested clocked 1:10.70 for six furlongs and came out of the turn with a 3 1/2-length lead over Petrov. Uncontested expanded his advantage down the stretch and was unchallenged while completing the distance in final time of 1:36.32.
"I almost feel bad getting after him," Hill said. "He's a horse that fools you. At the top of the lane he was traveling really nice and he was handling the track well. He's such a cool, classy little guy. He doesn't lollygag, but he can get a little lazy on you. He was still moving forward, but I just gave him a few taps as a reminder about what we were doing today and he absolutely cruised from there."
Owned by Harry T. Rosenblum and Robert LaPenta, Uncontested paid $4.40, $3.40, and $2.80 for the win.
With the victory, Uncontested now ranks fourth, with 11 points, on the leaderboard for the 143rd Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) on May 6. The Smarty Jones winner earned 10 Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying points, while runner-up recieved four, third-place two, and fourth one point.
"It worked out how we wanted it to," Catalano said. "The goal was break and go. You think you want to be on the front end, but when you do that, there’s always a calvary charge. You just have to let it play out. You never want an off track, but he handled it before OK. Sometimes it rains on the first Saturday in May, so you better be ready."
Bred in Kentucky by Richard Forbush, Uncontested is a son of Tiz Wonderful and is out of the Lil E. Tee mare Galileo’s Star. The colt was a $20,000 purchase from Forbush’s consignment in the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale.
The Smarty Jones was the first stakes triumph for Uncontested, who was making his third career start after he broke his maiden by six lengths in his career debut at Keeneland and followed it with a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs earning one qualifying point on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
In the Kentucky Jockey Club Uncontested, after breaking sluggishly from post 12, shot to the lead before backing up in the final furlong to finish five lengths behind unbeaten McCraken, a leading Kentucky Derby candidate.
"I know the horse that won it, he's the real deal," Hill said. "I mean, he had to really run hard into the first turn. He settled nice and he punched hard. They just ran him down. I can't believe he got beat for third."
Uncontested had recorded two bullet workouts at Oaklawn in advance of the Smarty Jones, including a 5-furlong move in 1:01 flat the morning of Jan. 10 under Hill.