Coming off a career-best performance in the West Virginia Derby (G3) and with two sharp interim works at Churchill Downs, Colonelsdarktemper rates highly in Monday’s $300,000 Smarty Jones (G3) at Parx Racing.
A local 1 1/16-mile tune-up for the Pennsylvania Derby (G1), the Smarty Jones has attracted a field of seven. Second to McCraken in the Matt Winn (G3) and to Irap in the Indiana Derby (G3) prior to the West Virginia Derby, Colonelsdarktemper took the early initiative at Mountaineer under Jon Court while staying well off the dead rail. Opening up a three-length lead in mid-stretch, the Jinks Fires trainee held on to win by a length for his first stakes win.
He has since posted bullet works of :58.80 for five furlongs and :47.60 for a half-mile over his Louisville home base of Churchill.
Battalion Runner is seemingly more likely to show the way in the Smarty Jones. The Todd Pletcher charge held pressured leads in the Wood Memorial (G2) and Dwyer (G3) before fading from win contention, but was a clear second in the Aqueduct race when ahead of eventual Preakness (G1) hero Cloud Computing and placed third behind Practical Joke in the Dwyer.
Pavel was a credible fourth in the Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga in late July off a single maiden sprint victory, and actually beat Cloud Computing to the wire in the 1 1/8-mile fixture, finishing fourth in a field of five. You’re to Blame has shown promise at times for Chad Brown, finishing second to West Coast in the $150,000 Easy Goer, but comes off a disappointing fourth in the $100,000 Curlin at Saratoga the day prior to the Jim Dandy.
The deep-closing Hence has captured the Sunland Derby (G3) and Iowa Derby (G3) this term, but couldn’t get going in the Haskell Invitational (G1) and trailed the field of seven. Talk Logistics and Bonus Points have both won over the Parx surface, though Talk Logistics looks the quicker of the two on paper with seconds in the Pegasus (G3) and $99,000 Long Branch in his past couple starts.
The $300,000 Turf Monster H. (G3) at five furlongs could prove a meaningful prep for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) at Del Mar in November. Pure Sensation, who won this race two years ago and the Parx Dash (G3) the last two years, puts his three-for-three course record on the line against a solid group, but has something to prove having thrown clunkers in three of his four outings this season.
Shakertown (G2) winner Holding Gold looked very strong placing in the Jaipur (G3) and $250,000 Troy H. in his past couple starts for Mark Casse, while former Breeders’ Cup scorer Mongolian Saturday looks to make up for his nose defeat by Pure Sensation in the 2015 renewal.
Other potential threats include multiple stakes winner Rainbow Heir, the undefeated stakes debuter Dubini, and recent $63,000 My Frenchman victor Snowday.
Scuba dominated the 2016 renewal of the $200,000 Greenwood Cup (G3) by five lengths, and will be seeking a repeat victory in the 1 1/2-mile test over Hawaakom and Bodhisattva, who ran second and third, respectively, a year ago. Madefromlucky, from the Todd Pletcher barn, is another probable contender.
Imperial Hint will be an overwhelming favorite to defeat four rivals in the $100,000 Donald LeVine Memorial over seven furlongs. He’s targeting the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Del Mar after back-to-back victories in the General George (G3) and Smile Sprint H. (G3), the latter earning him an automatic entry into the divisional centerpiece.