Oaklawn Park’s opening weekend features a Kentucky Derby qualifier, Monday’s $150,000 Smarty Jones, and a field of eight will square off in the one-mile event that awards points on a 10-4-2-1 basis to the top four respective finishers. A pair of leading contenders, Warrior’s Club and Uncontested, are exiting the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs in late November.
Warrior’s Club finished third behind unbeaten McCraken in the Kentucky Jockey Club. Conditioned by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, who captured the 2013 Smarty Jones with eventual 3-year-old champion Will Take Charge, Warrior’s Club broke his maiden when leading wire-to-wire in the restricted Spendthrift Stallion Stakes two back.
By Warrior’s Reward, the dark bay colt employed stalking tactics last time and it will be interesting to see how close Warrior’s Club is during the early stages with regular rider Robby Albarado.
Uncontested looks like the one to catch beneath Channing Hill. A superb wire-to-wire debut winner at Keeneland, the Tiz Wonderful colt weakened to fourth after setting the pace from post 12 in the Kentucky Jockey Club. He’s been freshened 51 days for his second two-turn attempt, recoding a couple of 5-furlong “bullet” works at Oaklawn in preparation for trainer Wayne Catalano, and the dark bay should appreciate the cut back to a mile.
Uncontested sold for $20,000 and Warrior’s Club brought $25,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Petrov can’t be dismissed in his third career outing. A convincing maiden winner at Churchill Downs when unveiled in mid-November, the gray colt followed with a head second in the December 2 Kings Swan at Aqueduct for Ron Moquett, who captured the 2015 Smarty Jones with Far Right. The son of Flatter will make his first two-turn start with new jockey Jose Ortiz.
Other runners include stakes-placed Rowdy the Warrior, who exits a fourth in the Springboard Mile for Donnie Von Hemel; last-out maiden claiming winner Love That Lute; and Arlington-Washington Futurity (G3) runner-up Romeo O Romeo, who needs to find form after a last-place effort in the Kentucky Jockey Club.