Mr. Z is likely to be bettors' top choice amog nine horses entered for Monday’s Smarty Jones Stakes.
Mr. Z is scheduled to break from post 3 under Jon Court. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, Mr. Z was narrowly beaten in the the Delta Jackpot Stakes on Nov. 22 and the Los Alamitos Futurity on Dec. 20. Far Right, a troubled third in the Delta Jackpot, drew the rail for the Smarty Jones.
Bayerd and Lucky Player, trained by six-time Oaklawn leading trainer Steve Asmussen, will seek the upset.
Bayerd, a son of champion sprinter Speightstown, has run five times; two of his three wins were in stakes races. After graduating with a smashing 11 1/2-length victory over a talented field of juveniles at Saratoga in August, he made a trio of starts at Remington Park and ended his juvenile season with a gutsy win by a head in the Springboard Mile on Dec. 14 under Ramon Vazquez.
“Bayerd is a nice horse who has run five very good races,” Asmussen said. “He won his last race at a mile, so the Smarty Jones is a good spot to start his three-year-old campaign.”
The Kentucky-bred bay colt has been back on the worktab since Dec. 24 and on Tuesday went out for an easy four-furlong breeze in :50.60.
“I’m anxious to see how he does at Oaklawn, which can be a horse specific course sometimes,” said Asmussen, who keeps a division of his 200-plus horse outfit in Hot Springs.
Lucky Player, a son of champion and 2010 Rebel Stakes winner Lookin at Lucky, captured the Iroquois Stakes in September at Churchill Downs. He seeks to rebound after finishing eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and seventh under Oaklawn’s defending leading rider Ricardo Santana, Jr. in the Kentucky Jockey Club on Nov. 29. Both races were two turns.
“He’s a nice horse too,” Asmussen said. “We’ll see if he can handle two turns at this time of year.”
Asmussen, who is giving Vazquez and Santana return calls on Bayerd and Lucky Player, respectively, said both colts are a pleasure to have in the barn, especially this time of the year.
“Neither one is quirky. They are both straightforward colts and easy to be around. They are young, good-feeling boys,” he said. “We have hopes and dreams for them.”
Mr. Z, Far Right and the Asmussen entries will square off with Paid Admission, American Sailor, Hebbronville, Private Prospect and Runaway Bling.
The one-mile Smarty Jones is the first of four local preps for the Kentucky Derby, culminating with the $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 11. Probable post time for the Smarty Jones, race 8 of nine on the card, is 5:38 ET.
Edited track release