March 2, 2024

Ben Diesel, Home Brew head 14-horse Smarty Jones

Caddo River
Caddo River wins last January's Smarty Jones Stakes (Coady Photography)

The first of four Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifiers at Oaklawn Park, Saturday’s $250,000 Smarty Jones S. at Oaklawn Park will feature a full field of 14 at a two-turn mile distance. Top draws include Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) fourth Ben Diesel and local allowance scorer Home Brew.

The Smarty Jones will award points on a 10-4-2-1 scale toward a Kentucky Derby berth.

Ben Diesel, a convincing debut winner at double-digit odds over a 1 1/16-mile distance at Churchill Downs, contested the pace before weakening to fourth behind Smile Happy in the Nov. 27 Kentucky Jockey Club under the Twin Spires. Trained by Dallas Stewart, the Will Take Charge colt has registered commendable Brisnet Speed ratings in both starts, but Ben Diesel will have to overcome the far outside post with Jon Court.

Home Brew, who rolled to a 3 3/4-length tally as the odds-on favorite in an Oaklawn allowance four weeks ago, will compete for favoritism in his initial stakes attempt. A first-out maiden winner at Laurel, the Street Sense colt was transferred to Brad Cox for his second outing, a close second in a six-furlong Churchill allowance, and Home Brew relished the stretch out to two turns last time. Florent Geroux rides.

Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen has entered three newly-turned sophomores, including All in Sync. The Maclean’s Music colt exits a decisive maiden tally as the favorite at Churchill, and Ricardo Santana Jr. has the call.

Cool Papa G, third in the Nov. 27 Lively Shively S. at Churchill, adds the services of Ramon Vasquez. Cairama, third in the Dec. 3 Advent S. at Oaklawn, rounds out the Asmussen trio. Geovanni Franco will be up.

Other runners include Advent winner Kavod; Lively Shively runner-up Barber Road; and Don’tcrossthedevil, who has been transferred to Phil D’Amato following convincing wins over maiden and allowance foes at Remington Park.