The scratch of Navistar in the Smarty Jones Stakes (click for FREE Brisnet.com Ultimate Past Performances) affected favored #4 Mourinho in both similar and adverse ways:
- It eases the West Coast shipper’s burden on the front end, and
- It completely guts his price.
At 3-to-2 on the morning line before the scratch of 5-to-2 morning line 3rd choice Navistar, #4 Mourinho is certain to be shorter than 3-to-2 in this now-6-horse field and possibly even odds on given Oaklawn bettors’ propensity to bet on Racing Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
Indeed, Mourinho is the horse to beat off his company lines–a maiden win against eventual Lecomte Stakes winner Instilled Regard and a pair of runner-up finishes as the favorite in California stakes, including a 1 1/2-length defeat to next-out winner Greyvitos in the Bob Hope.
There are some things not to like, however: like he’s lost twice as the favorite without an excuse in either race. He spit the bit at 3-to-10 in the Speakeasy then couldn’t sustain his run in the Bob Hope. He is unquestionably the speed here, but there are others who are at least capable of running near the lead: #2 Lone Rock & #3 Tap Daddy.
What makes Tap Daddy interesting as a potential pace threat is that could help set the race up for his stablemate #1 Combatant. Trainer Steve Asmussen has only legged up Luis Contreras twice in the past two months; it would be interesting to hear his instructions–mainly whether he says to send on the return to dirt.
The Asmussen-trained Snapper Sinclear showed plenty of pace when returning to dirt in the Lecomte and ran well to be third behind favored stablemate Principe Guilherme and the aforementioned Instilled Regard.
The short price and previous defeats at short prices are enough for me to toss Mourinho from win consideration and back Combatant at his morning line or better (2-to-1). It’s really difficult to see anyone coming from the clouds in this race, which is why I’m willing to toss #5 Arched Feather and #7 Bode’s Maker from consideration.
We’ll play #1 Combatant to win at 2-to-1 or better. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of exotic excitement. Even if you don’t like Mourinho for the win, he only has to beat three home to hit the board, which certainly would suppress exotic payouts.
So it’s all on the nose of Combatant.
The Smarty Jones is race 8 of the Martin Luther King Day Jr. 9-race card Monday, January 15, at Oaklawn Park.
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