SMARTY JONES STAKES | PURSE: $150,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | 1 MILE
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. -- Junebugred put himself on the 3-year-old fast track Monday at Oaklawn Park, when he won the $100,000 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park by a neck over Reckless Jerry. It was another length back in third to the multiple Grade 2 winning filly and favorite On Fire Baby.
The Smarty Jones was the first prep on Oaklawn's road to the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby, and Junebugred's connections said he will be pointed toward the series. The horse could run next in the Grade 3, $250,000 Southwest Stakes on Feb. 20.
Junebugred ($14.80) broke out at the start of the Smarty Jones, then found himself in a pocket behind horses. He raced in fourth along the rail, as Laurie's Rocket, No Spin, and Jake Mo were prominent through fractions of 23.68 seconds for the opening quarter, 48.20 for the half-mile mark, and 1:12.73 for six furlongs. On Fire Baby began to pick up steam around the final turn, as Junebugred got an opening along the inside and darted through like a seasoned professional. He was then part of a cavalry charge to the wire, and won the one-mile race that ended at the sixteenth pole in 1:38.45.
"He's a horse that has a bright future," said Joe Bravo, who was in to ride Junebugred for owners Alex and Joann Lieblong and trainer Steve Hobby.
Junebugred won his maiden in his second career start, when he took a maiden special weight at a mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 26. He made his stakes debut in the Smarty Jones.
"He showed us a lot of talent from the very beginning," said Hobby.
Junebugred is named for a type of fishing lure that the Lieblongs' son once used to win a fishing tournament. Alex Lieblong said because Junebugred is a late May foal and because he is a chestnut, he thought the terms June and red were a good fit for Junebugred, a son of Corinthian.
The remaining order of finish was Jake Mo in fourth, followed by Laurie's Rocket, Optimizer, Copus, Prince Cheval, King Coral, No Spin, Fastestwhogetspaid, and Hard Nosed.
*Attendance ontrack Monday was 11,922. Handle on the nine-race program from all sources was $2,776,588.
*Racing resumes Thursday at Oaklawn after the four-day opening weekend that extended to Monday.