Turning for home in his first try navigating two turns in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes, front-running Gray Attempt was flanked by a pair of game runners trained by Steve Asmussen, but the determined son of Graydar proved up to the challenge Jan. 25 at Oaklawn Park.
Under a smart ride from Shaun Bridgmohan, Dwight Pruett’s Gray Attempt turned for home with about a length lead, but Boldor had launched a challenge to his outside, while Remington Springboard Mile Stakes winner Long Range Toddy punched through inside. And while both challenged, Gray Attempt held sway through the short stretch to post a neck win.
Contested on opening day of the 2019 Oaklawn Park meeting, the Smarty Jones is the first race of the lucrative 3-year-old stakes series at the Hot Springs, Ark. track. It also is a Road to the Kentucky Derby points race, with the top four finishers earning 10-4-2-1 points, respectively, toward a start in the classic on the first Saturday in May.
Trained by William “Jinks” Fires, Gray Attempt raced in three sprints last year, closing the season with a maiden score at Churchill Downs followed by a front-running victory in the six-furlong Sugar Bowl Stakes Dec. 22 at Fair Grounds. The Smarty Jones, which starts and ends at the sixteenth pole, proved to be a good race to try and stretch out in distance.
Breaking from the outside in the field of eight 3-year-olds, Gray Attempt was able to clear the field and then Bridgmohan gradually angled him over to the two path through the first turn with Long Range Toddy and Boldor giving chase through an opening quarter-mile in :23.12.
Boldor began to challenge Gray Attempt just after a half-mile in :46.86, and while that challenge continued through the turn, Gray Attempt did not waver. Deep on the far turn, Boldor’s stablemate Long Range Toddy launched a rail rally that carried to the finish line, but while the challenge reduced the advantage, Gray Attempt smoothly held off the rival.
Sent off as the second choice at 2.20-1 odds, Gray Attempt completed the one-mile race in 1:36.94. Gray Attempt returned $6.40 to win, $4.20 to place, and $3.40 to show. Long Range Toddy paid $5.60 and $3.60 for the minor awards and Boldor, earning his first stakes-placing, returned $5.20 to show.
Favored at 3-2, Bankit, also trained by Asmussen, showed no late punch and finished sixth.
“We’ve got a quality horse and we’re very excited,” Pruett said after the race, adding that they would target the $500,000 Southwest Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 18 at Oaklawn.
Bred in Kentucky by Wynnstay, Donna Moore, and Jim Richardson, Gray Attempt is the first stakes winner for winning Consolidator mare Attempt to Name, who has produced two other winners.
Pruett went to $50,000 to purchase Gray Attempt at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky select yearling sale.