ESPN Horse Racing

Smarty Jones wins Arkansas Derby
by Associated Press

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. -- A horse from Pennsylvania is on his way to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby.

Smarty Jones remained undefeated in six races, stalking Purge just as he had last month in the Rebel and charging past him on the turn to win the $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.

The victory Saturday gives Philadelphia-based trainer John Servis and jockey Stewart Elliott their first trip to the Kentucky Derby on May 1. If Smarty Jones wins at Churchill, he would become the first undefeated Derby winner since Seattle Slew in 1977.

"I'm very fortunate to be in Philadelphia Park and to have the clients I have," Servis said. "I have good owners that give me the opportunity to get a hold of horses like this and when you get horses like this, it makes it real easy to get up in the morning."

Borrego finished second, 1½ lengths behind Smarty Jones, while Pro Prado charged from seventh to third in front of 62,264 who roared when Smarty Jones took the lead. Purge faded to fifth.

Smarty Jones ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.41. Breaking from the outside post, Smarty Jones met Purge, who started from the No. 5 position, as they entered the first turn. They hit the first quarter-mile in 22.64 seconds on the muddy track and 46.95 after a half-mile.

"I let him get running a little bit and then Purge got going a bit and it set up from there," Elliott said. "I thought we were clipping along pretty good, but he's a fast horse."

The win also puts Smarty Jones, the derby's even-money favorite, in line for Oaklawn's "Centennial Bonus" if he can win the Kentucky Derby. The bonus was instituted this year to commemorate the track's 100th birthday and the first two legs of the bonus were the Rebel and the Arkansas Derby.

The $5 million bonus, half of which will come out of Oaklawn owner Charles Cella's pocket, matches what Visa has offered for a potential Triple Crown winner since 1995.

The only horse to win the Rebel, Arkansas and Kentucky derbys was Sunny's Halo in 1983.

Combined with the $800,000 Smarty Jones would get for winning the Kentucky Derby, the $5.8 million payday would be the richest in horse racing history. This for a horse who didn't have any graded stakes earnings before Saturday.

"Today, for me, was the pressure race," Servis said. "This was it, because he if he didn't win today he wasn't going to go."

Smarty Jones would join Lil E. Tee (1992) as the only Pennsylvania-bred horses to win at Kentucky. Last year, Funny Cide became the first New York-bred horse to win at Kentucky.

Smarty Jones was the only favorite to follow through with a victory in the three Kentucky Derby prep races Saturday. In the other two, Tapit beat favored Master David in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and The Cliff's Edge ran down Lion Heart in the Blue Grass Stakes at Kenneland.

Smarty Jones, who ran the last eighth in 12.5 seconds, earned $600,000 for the Chapmans in winning the Grade 2 race. He has $878,355 in career earnings, but the win gives him the first graded stakes earnings of his career.

"I can't tell you how good this makes me feel," said Roy Chapman, who is battling emphysema and wasn't able to travel for the Rebel on March 20. "It's unbelievable to see the way that horse ran today."

Borrego, with Victor Espinoza aboard, earned $200,000 to improve his career total to $399,580, while John McKee's late run on Pro Prado earned $100,000. The purse was doubled from $500,000 this year for the centennial racing season.

"I am delighted with my horse's race," Borrego trainer Beau Greely said. "Yes, I am thinking Kentucky Derby. He is getting better at the right time. I want to run in the Kentucky Derby."

Smarty Jones paid $4, $3 and $2.60, Borrego returned $3.20 and $2.80, and Pro Prado paid $4.40 to show.

Pro Prado trainer Bob Holthus, a 52-year veteran at Oaklawn, said he will consider taking his horse to Kentucky, too.

"I have been training horses for 52 years and never thought we'd get $100,000 for finishing third," he said. "There were meetings in the early days at Oaklawn [where] the total purse distribution didn't amount to that much.

"Our horse fits with these and always runs his race. It may be my last chance for the [Kentucky] Derby."

There were two other stakes races held at Oaklawn.

Timothy Doocy rode Two Down Automatic to a 5¾-length victory in the mile $75,000 Northern Spur Breeders' Cup for 3-year-olds. Pro Prado finished strong for second, holding off Level Playingfield.

Trainer Steve Ausmussen hadn't run Two Down Automatic since he finished second to Smarty Jones in the one-mile $100,000 Southwest on Feb. 28. Mike Akers, the head of a five-owner partnership out of Lexington, Ky., said Ausmussen like the horse better in the mile.

"There was some temptation to run in the Arkansas Derby today, but we went up against Smarty Jones earlier," Akers said. "We were right where we wanted to be and things seem to be going our way, but we couldn't beat him. The derby might be a bit far for our colt."

Two Down Automatic returned $4.20, $3 and $2.20, Proper Prado paid $4.80 and $3, and Level Playingfield returned $3.20.

Pat Day, Oaklawn's leading jockey from 1983 to 1994, returned Saturday to take Tee's Pearl to victory in the $75,000 Instant Racing Breeders' Cup for trainer Lynn Whiting. Day rode her sire, Lil E. Tee, to victory in the 1992 Kentucky Derby.

"She's a daddy's girl," Whiting said. "She's a lot like her sire. She's got his look."

Tee's Pearl returned $5.60, $4 and $3.20 in the mile race for 3-year-old fillies. Pilfer paid $11.60 and $6.60, and Cedar Summer returned $7.80 for third.

Finley: What's wrong with Smarty Jones?

Audio and Video
 Arkansas Derby
Smarty Jones remains perfect with a win in the Arkansas Derby. Courtesy NBC.
Standard | Cable Modem