Betting a Speed and Class Standout in the Smarty Jones Stakes

Fans at Oaklawn Park’s 2018 meet. (Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing)

Last month at Fair Grounds, a promising young colt by the name of Gray Attempt left little doubt about his superiority over a quality field in the Dec. 22 Sugar Bowl Stakes. Breaking alertly and seizing command right after the start, Gray Attempt set a steady pace and held on down the homestretch to win by a length, with Manny Wah and Hog Creek Hustle his closest pursuers.

Well, last weekend Hog Creek Hustle and Manny Wah returned to finish second and third, respectively, in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, reiterating the strength of the Sugar Bowl field and Gray Attempt’s victory. And on Jan. 25, opening day at Oaklawn Park, #8 Gray Attempt will attempt to join them on the Derby trail when he contests the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes.

Gray Attempt (Lou Hodges, Jr. /Hodges Photography)

The one-mile distance of the Smarty Jones is arguably the only major question mark facing Gray Attempt, since it will mark his first time competing in a two-turn race. In every other respect, Gray Attempt looms as the horse to beat. Not only has he defeated quality competition, he’s run fast while doing so. In his maiden win at Churchill Downs in November, Grey Attempt posted speed figures of 81 (Beyer) and 91 (BRIS), and he stepped up to 92 (Beyer) and 96 (BRIS) in the Sugar Bowl, figures that stamp him among the fastest horses in the Smarty Jones field.

Here’s another positive: Gray Attempt has plenty of tactical speed and has drawn well in post position eight, which should afford jockey Shaun Bridgmohan plenty of options for working out a good trip. In fact, he could wind up sitting a perfect trip if the speedy #9 Jack Van Berg gets aggressive from his outside draw and sprints to the front, providing Gray Attempt with a target to chase. In conclusion, what’s not to like about Gray Attempt?

The Steve Asmussen-trained pair of #1 Long Range Toddy and #7 Bankit were separated by a head while finishing 1-2 in the Remington Springboard Mile last month, and the fact that both are already stakes winners going a mile makes them logical candidates to finish in the money. But I’m just as intrigued by #3 Super Steed, who never really fired when coming home fourth in the Sugar Bowl Stakes. However, Super Steed’s previous run had yielded a powerful score in an allowance race at Churchill Downs, in which he produced a sweeping rally from off the pace to win by six lengths.

I’m not sure why Super Steed ran below form in the Sugar Bowl, but trainer Larry Jones is showing confidence by wheeling this son of Super Saver right back into a Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race while stretching him out in distance for the first time. Super Steed worked five-eighths of a mile in a quick 1:00.80 on Jan. 14, so from all appearances he’s sitting on go and could be a candidate to rebound at a nice price.

Here’s how I would play the Smarty Jones:

Wagering Strategy on a $15 Budget

$9 to win on #8 Gray Attempt

$2 exacta: 8 with 1,3,7 ($6)

Wagering Strategy on a $30 Budget

$12 to win on #8 Gray Attempt

$1.50 trifecta: 8 with 1,3,7 with 1,3,5,7,9 ($18)

Good luck, and enjoy the race!

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