We’re only a day away from the running of the $3,000,000 Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park. Gulfstream Park runs their hallmark event of the year, along with the $1,000,000 race on the turf in Hallandale Beach tomorrow. TheSportsGeek will have the Pegasus covered on Saturday, so check back for that tomorrow morning. There is still a lot of racing to attack on the racetrack Friday. BetOnline has a mammoth slate on the calendar on Friday, with a total of 13 thoroughbred tracks in the US offered for wagering. There is a lot of prize money available out there, but only one notable stakes event to speak of. The $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park is the marquee race on Friday.
We will get the day started at Oaklawn Park, which is opening its winter meet with a nine-race $532,000 card, headlined by the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes. Head below for our free Oaklawn Park picks for January 22, 2021.
Post Time: 3:07 p.m. CST
Race 6 is a mile event on the main track for a $82,000 purse. Saffa’s Day and Saqeel are on my shortlist and should be closely watched in the stretch. Saqeel will have to battle hard from the outside, but likely is going to have a say against this field.
He has finished 4th, 5th, 2nd in his career, with a couple of decent efforts and a bold run up to place 2nd in his most recent showing on November 28. Saqeel placed 2nd behind Leblon by a neck for a $85,000 purse. That was a nice improvement from Saqeel after finishing 5th in a similar class.
If Saqeel can continue to show improvement, then a trip to the winner’s circle is not out of the equation on Friday. He will have to contend with Saffa’s Day who is seeing a drop in class today. Saffa’s Day is coming off two stakes appearances in the $125,000 Nyquist Stakes on November 6, and $200,000 Remington Springboard Mile Stakes on December 18.
Saffa’s Day finished 6th and then 4th most recently at Remington Park. I thought it was a good performance for Saffa’s Day against that level of competition. It was a tough field, but Saffa’s Day was able to beat six horses for a pretty good day. Down in class on Friday, expect a better finish for Saffa’s Day with a good chance of going to the winner’s circle.
Post Time: 3:38 p.m. CST
Race 7 is a $88,000 event on the dirt covering 6 furlongs. Rubus and Engage are going to be hot contenders for the top prize in this one. Rubus has been a consistent runner recently. He has been in the top-3 in five straight outings since July. That included a win on September 3 in a $62,500 allowance optional claiming event over Explorer by 2 lengths.
Since that outing, Rubus showed 3rd on October 9 and November 26. He was at Churchill Downs for his most recent entry and struck for 3rd in a $92,000 contest. That kind of form sets Rubus up for a bold run on Friday. He’s likely going to be close at the wire. Engage is 5 for 15 and has experience in much tougher events than what he’ll face on Friday.
Engage has finished 1st, 1st, 4th, 5th, 5th in his most recent five races. He won on October 4, 2019, four races ago in the $250,000 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes (Gr. 2) over Whitmore by a half length. In his most recent showing, Engage finished 5th in the $150,000 Lafayette Stakes on November 7. He was 2nd going into the stretch, but weakened and flattened out. I don’t see that being a problem at 6 furlongs against this competition.
Race 8 – Smarty Jones Stakes
Post Time: 4:11 p.m. CST
The $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes is the feature event on Friday at Oaklawn Park and in the US. This mile event on the dirt is scheduled to include seven runners for a $150,000 prize. Caddo River and Cowan should be the horses to watch in this contest.
Caddo River has finished in the top-2 in three career races. After placing 2nd behind Speaker’s Corner by ¾ lengths in a $63,000 assignment, Caddo River beat Alejandro by 9 ½ lengths in a blowout. He was already clear of the field before entering the stretch in an impressive display.
Since that performance on November 16, Caddo River has looked good in morning workouts in January. He completed 4 furlongs in 48 seconds, 6 furlongs in 1:13.80, and most recently 5 furlongs in 1:00.40. That said, this will be a tougher race than he’s experienced. Cowan will likely be a worthy challenger.
Cowan has finished in the top-2 in three straight assignments, and top-3 in 5 of 6 career outings. Cowan placed 2nd in more difficult races than this outing on Friday. He placed 2nd behind Golden Pal by ¾ lengths in the $1,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint Stakes (Gr. 2) on November 6.
He returned on December 18 to place 2nd behind Senor Buscador by 5 ¾ lengths in the $250,000 Remington Springboard Mile Stakes. This might be a tough race for most horses in this race, but the Smarty Jones Stakes represents a significant class drop for Cowan. Expect a win for Cowan.