January 23, 2022

Kentucky Derby Report – Smarty Jones catapults Caddo River into spotlight

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

Caddo River made a splash on Oaklawn Park’s opening-day, crushing foes by a 10 1/4-length margin in the Smarty Jones S. The dark bay colt has speed to spare for owner/breeder Shortleaf Stable and trainer Brad Cox.

After romping in his stakes and two-turn debut, Caddo River was bet down as the 13-1 third individual choice in Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) last weekend.

Smarty Jones Stakes

Caddo River needed three starts before graduating over a one-turn mile at Churchill Downs in mid-November, rolling to a wire-to-wire decision. He netted a 94 Brisnet Speed rating, but the maiden win didn’t attract much buzz — supporters landed a 27-1 price in Pool 1 of the KDFW two weeks later.

He was bet down to 3-5 odds in the seven-horse Smarty Jones, but there was a measure of apprehension surrounding Caddo River’s 3-year-old debut. His stablemate, Mandaloun, finished a disappointing third when returning at odds-on in the Lecomte S. (G3) at Fair Grounds the previous weekend.

Caddo River made it look easy in the Smarty Jones. After sprinting clear from the gate under Florent Geroux, Caddo River cruised through reasonable splits (:23.12 and :47.16), drawing off sharply into the short stretch.

His Speed ratings (96) increased, picking up 10 points in the Kentucky Derby qualifier, and Caddo River has won the last two starts by a combined 19 3/4 lengths. His arrow is pointing up, but the Smarty Jones wasn’t much of a test.

The competition will get tougher. He hasn’t been past a mile yet, but Caddo River does possess a stamina-influenced pedigree.

Sire Hard Spun finished second to Street Sense in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, and Caddo River is out of the stakes-winning Congrats mare Pangburn, who won at distances up to 1 1/8 miles. This is the extended family of Deputed Testamony, the second of six Preakness winners trained Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas.

With stablemate Essential Quality targeting the Feb. 15 Southwest S. (G3) at Oaklawn, Caddo River may wait seven weeks for the March 13 Rebel S. (G2) in Hot Springs.

Maiden standouts

Prevalence and The Great One will be headed to Kentucky Derby prep races following spectacular maiden wins.

Saturday’s 6TH race at Gulfstream Park appeared promising on paper. And first-time starter Prevalence decimated the well-regarded field of 12.

The final margin wound up being 8 1/2 lengths, but the Godolphin homebred son of Medaglia d’Oro probably wins by at least a dozen if Tyler Gaffalione doesn’t ease up well before the wire. After dueling for the early lead, Gaffalione let his mount out a notch approaching the conclusion of the far turn, and the race was quickly over.

Prevalence received a 94 Speed rating, winning at a tricky 7-furlong distance for Brendan Walsh.

The Great One, named for Wayne Gretzky, lived up to his namesake in Saturday’s 2ND race at Santa Anita, winning by 14 lengths. After opening his racing career with three straight unplaced efforts, the Nyquist colt has improved significantly for two-time Kentucky Derby winner Doug O’Neill.

Spielberg (outside), edges The Great One in the Los Alamitos Futurity © BENOIT PHOTO

Dismissed at 33-1 in December’s Los Alamitos Futurity (G2), The Great One almost stole the race wire-to-wire, only to be nipped by a nose on the wire by Spielberg. O’Neill dropped the Louisiana-bred into a mile maiden special weight Saturday, and The Great One stalked in second before seizing command entering the far turn.

His Speed ratings are strong (101 in the last two starts), and The Great One will be pointed to the March 13 San Felipe S. (G2) at Santa Anita.

Up next

The Holy Bull S. (G3) at Gulfstream and Robert B. Lewis S. (G3) at Santa Anita will be offered on Jan. 30, each awarding 17 combined points (10-4-2-1 scale) toward a Kentucky Derby berth.

Two-time Kentucky Derby winner Todd Pletcher has a pair of top contenders expected for the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull, Mucho Macho Man S. victor Mutasaabeq and 8 3/4-length debut maiden scorer Prime Factor.

O’Neill has a couple set for the 1 1/16-mile Lewis, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Hot Rod Charlie and maiden romper Wipe the Slate.