After settling for second in a pair of stakes in Southern California to close out 2017, Mourinho found Oaklawn Park to his liking as he scored a clear victory in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 15.
The victory by Mourinho adds to the Oaklawn success of his trainer Bob Baffert, who has now won half his 36 stakes starts at the Hot Springs, Ark., track. Mourinho completed the one-mile test in 1:37.25, the second-fastest time in the history of the stakes race that started in 2008.
Mourinho’s 3 ¼-length win gave Baffert his first Smarty Jones score. The colt also received 10 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 5.
Mourinho broke well under Drayden Van Dyke to secure a clear lead through the first turn, and the 3-5 favorite maintained that edge, taking the field of five 3-year-olds through a half-mile in :48.09. In the far turn, Mourinho added to his advantage, opening three lengths and then four, before second betting choice Combatant launched his rally, which proved too late in the one-mile test.
Combatant finished second and was followed home by Tap Daddy, Bode's Maker, and Arched Feather. Lone Rock and Navistar were scratched, leaving a field of five.
The top four Smarty Jones finishers earned Kentucky Derby points (10-4-2-1), which are used to determine the Louisville classic's field if more than 20 horses are entered.
Mourinho, a son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, won his maiden special weight debut at Santa Anita Park on Sept. 30 before finishing second to Beautiful Shot in the six-furlong Speakeasy Stakes there and second to Greyvitos at Del Mar in the seven-furlong Bob Hope Stakes. Monday's race marked the first two-turn start for Mourinho.
Owned by Phoenix Thoroughbred III, Mourinho was a $625,000 purchase by the group’s bloodstock and racing advisor Kerri Radcliffe as agent at the 2017 Ocala Breeders' Sales' March sale of 2-year-olds in training.