Smarty Jones Stakes 2019
Named for the 2004 Arkansas Derby and 2004 Kentucky Derby winner, the Smarty Jones Stakes is part of the qualifying race series for the 2019 Kentucky Derby. The top-four finishing horses in the Smarty Jones will receive Derby qualifying points on a 10-4-2-1 basis.
How Does a Horse Qualify for the Kentucky Derby?
Although the Kentucky Derby is held every year at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday of May, qualifying for one of the 20 available spots in the starting gate begins months before. The Derby is restricted to horses aged three, but many horses begin the road to gaining qualifying points while they are still in their two-year-old racing season.
For horses based in North America the Derby qualifying series begins with the Iroquois Stakes in mid-September, and runs right through to the Arkansas Derby in mid-April. In total there are 34 races in the United States that make up the series, plus the UAE Derby that is held in Dubai at Meyden Race Course.
One starting spot in the Derby gate is reserved for a horse that qualifies through a seven-race series in the UK and France, and another spot is reserved for a horse qualifying through a four-race series in Japan.
The top four finishers in each of the qualifying races gain points on a scale of 10-4-2-1 through the first half of the schedule, which then increases to 50-20-10-5 for a half-dozen races in late winter/early spring and finally to a 100-40-20-10 scale in the final weeks leading up to the Derby.
There is no set schedule as to when certain horses will run in certain races, as the route to the Derby is mapped out by the trainer according to where and when they think the horse should run. Typically a horse will run in three or four qualifying races to try and make the Derby gate, although it is possible to qualify simply by winning, or even running second, in one of the later races that offer more points.
In 2018, Magnum Moon finished on top of the qualifying leader board with 150 points after wins in the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby. Instilled Regard grabbed the final qualifying spot with 29 points.
It should be noted that a high Derby qualifying spot does not always translate into good Kentucky Derby results, as Magnum Moon went on to finish 19th. The 2018 Kentucky Derby winner Justify made the field after winning a single 100-point qualifier, the Santa Anita Derby.
The 2019 Kentucky Derby will be held Saturday, May 4. The Kentucky Derby post time is generally around 5:45 PM Eastern.
Smarty Jones Stakes Odds
- Coming in off a wire-to-wire win in the Sugar Bowl Stakes, Gray Attempt is the top choice here at morning line odds of 5-2. He was more than four lengths ahead of Hog Creek Hustle, who came back to run second in the (G3) Lecomte Stakes last weekend.
- New York bred Bankit (7-2 ML odds) was very consistent in 2018, running first or second in five-of-six races. last out he came from way back to run second and gain Derby qualifying points in the (G2) Springboard Mile.
- Six Shooter (6-1 ML odds) ran very poorly in the Springboard, but has since come back to grab a stakes win at Delta Downs where he was able to close into very slow late fractions.
- Long Range Toddy (4-1 ML odds) is a winner of three straight including the Springboard at odds of 18-1 and looks to be improving every time out.
Smarty Jones Stakes Picks
- 1) #8 - Gray Attempt
- 2) #7 - Bankit
- 3) #4 - Six Shooter
- 4) #1 - Long Range Toddy
The Smarty Jones Stakes goes Friday, January 25 from Oaklawn Park, as race #8 on the day. Expected post time is 3:52 Central.
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