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 track at Oaklawn Park on the Jan. 16 Martin Luther King Jr. holiday card.
With Channing Hill aboard the 6-5 favorite for his father-in-law, trainer Wayne Catalano, Uncontested opened up on his seven competitors down the backstretch, as 9-5 second choice Petrov moved into second.
Continuing to travel at a high cruising speed entering the second turn in the one-mile race, Uncontested entered the stretch with a sizeable lead over Petrov. Uncontested expanded his advantage in the late stages 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."
Petrov was a clear second, followed by Rowdy the Warrior and Warrior's Club, both sons of Warrior's Reward.
With the victory, Uncontested now ranks fourth on the leaderboard for the 143rd Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands on May 6 with 11 total points. The Smarty Jones winner earned 10 qualifying points, while the runner-up received four points, third place two points, 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 okay. Sometimes it rains on the first Saturday in May, so you better be ready."
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 Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs, earning one qualifying point on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Owned by Harry Rosenblum and Robert LaPenta, and 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 to the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale.
To view a BloodHorse replay of the race, click here.