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Image for Brian Zipse Brian Zipse - Updated October 14, 2022

Smarty Jones Stakes (Oaklawn Park) Predictions, Odds & Picks

Smarty Jones Stakes Oaklawn Park 2021
If you're playing only to win, go with my top pick Caddo River (8/5)

Brian Zipse

Post Position and Odds – Smarty Jones Stakes

Check out our predictions and odds for the 2021 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park!

PP Horse Odds Jockey Trainer
F Arrieta M Robertson
D Cohen I Mason
3 COWAN 5/2
R Santana Jr S Asmussen
D Cabrera S Asmussen
M Garcia R Hernandez
J Talamo S Joseph Jr
F Geroux B Cox

Best Bets for the Smarty Jones Stakes

Here are my plays ($40 in total)

$20 Exacta – Caddo River over Cowan = $20

$10 Exacta part wheel – Caddo River over Moonlite Strike and Martini Blu = $20

Top Pick:

Caddo River (8/5)

The road to the Kentucky Derby through Arkansas kicks off on Friday, opening day at Oaklawn Park, as Caddo River and Cowan headline a field of seven 3-year-olds in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes.

The likely favorite comes from the powerful barn of trainer Brad Cox. After two solid runner-up finishes in New York to begin his career, Caddo River exploded onto the Derby trail with a dominant victory at Churchill Downs in his third career outing. He ran fast all the way around in the 9 1/2-length maiden romp, which came at the same distance he will find at Oaklawn Park.

While the likely favorite will be making his stakes debut on Friday, Cowan is already a seasoned stakes performer. The Smarty Jones will be the sixth consecutive stakes appearance for the Steve Asmussen trainee, who has finished second in the last three, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint two starts back. Returning to the dirt last time, he finished second in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park on December 18.

Contested at one mile, the Smarty Jones will offer Kentucky Derby qualifying points of 10-4-2-1, respectively, to the top four finishers.

How to Watch the Smarty Jones Stakes

Smarty Jones Stakes Information
What Smarty Jones Stakes
Where Oaklawn Park
When Friday, January 22 — 4:11pm Central time
How to Watch TVG
Purse $150,000

Race Analysis

Caddo River

The talented runners just keep coming out of the Brad Cox barn, and in this son of Hard Spun, he may have one of his best hopes for the 2021 Kentucky Derby. Both his maiden second-place finished in New York, at Saratoga and Belmont, was solid and came against talented horses. His third race, however, at Churchill Downs, was a whole different ball game. Flashing considerable early speed, while being ridden for the first time by Florent Geroux, he dominated a well-intentioned field every step of the way and poured it on down the stretch. I expect the transition to stakes racing to be smooth, as he has the most speed in this field, and likely the most talent as well. Already a winner at the trip, he is the strong top pick.


Consistency and class proven, this one deserves to be a solid second choice. After a nice showing sprinting on the turf in back to back stakes races at Keeneland, he accounted for himself well in his return to dirt, with a runner-up finish in the Springboard Mile. He didn’t, however, threaten the winner, ultimately losing by nearly six lengths. One of two from the Asmussen barn, who took home last week’s Lecomte with Midnight Bourbon, he must be respected. But with Caddo River lose on the early lead, another second-place finish looks like the most likely result.

Moonlite Strike

From the barn of Saffie Joseph, Jr. this one looks to be the top threat against the two clear favorites. After a decent debut in the slop, in which he broke poorly, he came right back to win his next two in maiden and allowance company, respectively. The first came in the slop at Gulfstream Park West against a questionable company, but the next moved over to Gulfstream Park. He faced better that time and was a game-winner going a flat mile. He will be one of the ones chasing Caddo River early, and could well be second to that one all the way around.

Big Thorn

This son of The Big Beast is the other Steve Asmussen runner and also has some early speed to try to make Caddo River work early. A winner of 2-of-4, he was clearly best in a 7-furlong stakes race for Florida-birds at Gulfstream Park West in November but was well beaten against the open company last time in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes on January 2. He may be a threat in the open company down the road, but my guess is that his success will come from sprinting.

Martini Blu

Success against maidens at Hawthorne Park is a long way from stakes racing at Oaklawn Park, but his one’s debut was good enough to at least consider him on Friday. He finished strongly in that debut performance, which came at 1 mile and 70 yards, and the horse he beat easily was well-liked. Look for the son of Maclean’s Music to be well off the lead in this test, but perhaps he is talented enough to pick up at least some of the pieces over tiring horses down the Oaklawn Park Stretch.

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Brian Zipse

227 Articles

Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.

Email: [email protected]

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