Photo Credit: Robert Yates
One entrant in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds opening day Friday at Oaklawn landed in Steve Haskin’s first 2020 Derby Dozen released earlier this week on the industry web site BloodHorse.com, but it wasn’t the Grade 1 winner, the Grade 2 winner or the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) starter.
It was Three Technique, who is scheduled to make his 3-year-old and stakes debut in the 1-mile Smarty Jones – Oaklawn’s first of four Kentucky Derby points races – for trainer Jeremiah Englehart and the August Dawn Farm of two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Parcells.
Although Three Technique has never raced outside New York or around two turns, the son of millionaire Mr Speaker checked in ninth in Haskin’s rankings following two sharp victories to close 2019.
“He’s one those that’s kind of like Zion Williamson,” Englehart said Thursday morning, referring to the first overall selection in the 2019 NBA draft who made his professional debut Wednesday night. “Maybe not quite Zion Williamson of the NBA yet, but he’s been flashy. Now, he’s got to prove it.”
The first chance comes in the Smarty Jones, which drew a field of nine, including four horses for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. The Smarty Jones will offer 17 points to the top four finishers (10-4-2-1) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. Probable post time for the Smarty Jones, the eighth of nine races on the opening-day card, is 3:52 p.m. (Central). Racing begins at 12:35 p.m.
The projected Smarty Jones field from the rail out: Lykan, Terry Thompson to ride, 115 pounds, 20-1 on the morning line; Silver Prospector, Ricardo Santana Jr., 119, 5-2; Shared Sense, Florent Geroux, 115, 12-1; Nucky, Joe Talamo, 119, 10-1; Jungle Runner, Ramon Vazquez, 119, 20-1; Gold Street, Martin Garcia, 119, 5-1; Shoplifted, Tyler Gaffalione, 119, 3-1; Lynn’s Map, Miguel Mena, 117, 6-1; and Three Technique, Irad Ortiz Jr., 119, 9-2.
Three Technique has been the betting favorite in all four career starts. After finishing second in his first two career races – the second was to subsequent Grade 1 winner Basin – Three Technique broke his maiden by 5 ½ lengths Aug. 31 at Saratoga and toppled first-level allowance rivals by 4 ½ lengths Nov. 20 at Aqueduct. Both races were 7 furlongs.
Three Technique has been based at Oaklawn for more than a month and has had four local published workouts leading up to the Smarty Jones.
“We’re just trying to take our next step here,” said the New York-based Englehart, who is wintering in Hot Springs for the first time. “The ultimate goal is, every year, to try to develop some of these young horses into running in the classic 3-year-old races and develop them into older horses. He’s probably one of the ones that we’ve always been high on talentwise. It’s just a matter of him taking his game to the next level now.”
Silver Prospector, Jungle Runner, Gold Street and Shoplifted are trained by Asmussen, who is bidding for his first Smarty Jones victory. Asmussen has 83 career stakes victories at Oaklawn, including at least one every year since his first in 1996.
Silver Prospector exits a victory in the $300,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) Nov. 30 at Churchill Downs. Shoplifted rebounded from a seventh-place finish in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Nov. 1 at Santa Anita to win the $400,000 Springboard Mile Dec. 15 at Remington Park.
The Peter Miller-trained Nucky will be the first Grade 1 winner to contest the Smarty Jones, inaugurated in 2008. Nucky captured the $300,000 Del Mar Futurity (G1) Sept. 2 Del Mar.
Lynn’s Map will be making his 3-year-old and stakes debut after scratching from the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes (G3) last Saturday at Fair Grounds because of a poor post position (14). Lynn’s Map capped his 2-year-old season with an entry-level allowance victory by a head Dec. 21 at Fair Grounds for trainer Mark Casse. Runner-up in that 1-mile 70-yard race was Mr. Monomoy, who returned to run third, beaten 1 ¾ lengths by the Casse-trained Enforceable, in the Lecomte. Lynn’s Map drew better for the Smarty Jones (post 8).
“I don’t know if there’s a real bad post there,” Casse said. “If you said it to me: ‘Mark, what would have been your ideal post?’ It probably would have been 5. So, 8 is not that far off 5. We’re not going to use that as an excuse, let’s put it that way.”
Oaklawn’s Kentucky Derby points series continues with the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 17, $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14 and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 11.