Every year on January 1st, thoroughbreds across the universe become one year older. At least that’s how the thoroughbred horse racing industry views it in order to have consistency in setting the conditions of races. Therefore, every colt and filly who was born in 2007, is now a 3 year old and eligible for the 2010 Triple Crown races as well as the numerous stakes races scheduled from now through April commonly referred to as “Kentucky Derby Prep Races”.
There was one such race run on Monday (01/18/10) at Oaklawn Park, the $100,000 Smarty Jones Stakes contested at one mile. The 7-5 Post Time favorite was Dryfly (Jump Start – Creeksider, by Topsider) who led from gate to wire under smart-riding Calvin Borel for a 2 ¼ length victory over eleven foes.
Though the result wasn’t particularly surprising, the fact that more than half of the field were front-runners who never got near the lead was perplexing, even though the split times got increasing slower after the initial quarter (23.35; 24.30; 26.10, 27.94). An OK-bred (Pleasant Storm; 7-1) mustered a nice closing kick to finish a clear second, nearly 2 lengths in front of 6-1 Kitty’s Turn. High-profile trainers, D. Wayne Lukas and Steve Asmussen each had two runners in here. All four were major disappointments (Crider – 4th; Wow Wow Wow – 8th; Wildcat Nation – 11th and Prince Rooney – 12th). With the exception of Asmussen’s Crider, it might be safe to say this is the last time we’ll see this group in any Derby prep race.
It is likely that Dryfly and runner-up Pleasant Storm will next be seen in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on President’s Day (Monday, Feb. 15th). All others will realize they belong in allowance race company.
The next round of Derby prep races take place on Saturday, January 23rd where there are two. The Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park (FL) and the Grade 3 LeComte Stakes at Fairgrounds (LA). Both races are at a distance of one mile.
As the “Road to the Run for the Roses” is now being traveled, I’ll begin to provide my humble handicapping opinion on these races and keep you informed of the contenders and pretenders attempting to reach the starting gate for the 136th Kentucky Derby on May 1st.