Prominent Arkansan John Ed Anthony is back on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail, after his homebred Caddo River dominated Friday’s $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes on opening day at Oaklawn Park. Trained by Brad Cox, who also has Godolphin’s presumptive champion Essential Quality on his Derby roster, the 3-5 favorite confirmed the stellar impression from his maiden win at Churchill Downs.
Caddo River was stretching out from a one-turn to a two-turn mile here, but the different configuration made no difference. Breaking from the outside post 7, he just had too much natural speed for his rivals, and jockey Florent Geroux let him roll.
The son of Hard Spun cleared the field without breaking a sweat, established himself in the comfort zone through fractions of :23.12, :47.16, and 1:12.42, and extended his advantage at every call. Crossing the wire 10 1/4 lengths in front, Caddo River clocked the mile in 1:38.19 and scored 10 points toward the Derby.
“He broke very alertly,” Geroux told Oaklawn publicity. “Very nice and relaxed. You want to see these type horses doing it the right way. It’s easy to go to the lead and keep on going. You want them to relax and do everything right. He did everything perfect.”
The only one with a chance of making a race of it, 2.40-1 second choice Cowan, achieved separation from the rest of the pack but couldn’t hold a candle to the winner. Keeping on bravely in pursuit, Cowan banked 4 more points to double his total to 8.
“He ran good,” Cowan’s rider, Ricardo Santana, said. “It was his second time going long (following his second in the Springboard Mile). I think the longer he goes, the better he’s going to be. The winner is a nice horse.”
Another 7 1/4 lengths back came Big Thorn, who prevailed by a neck over Moonlite Strike for third. Big Thorn took home 2 points, and Moonlite Strike received 1. Rounding out the field were Martini Blu and the tailed-off Hardly Swayed and Lawlessness.
Bred and campaigned in the name of Anthony’s Shortleaf Stable – the successor to his historic Loblolly nom de course – Caddo River has earned $166,092 from his 4-2-2-0 record. The dark bay placed a commendable second in his first two starts, to Olympiad at Saratoga and to Speaker’s Corner at Belmont Park, but took a leap forward in his 9 1/2-length romp at Churchill Nov. 15.
The Kentucky-bred is out of the Grade 2-placed stakes winner Pangburn. Herself a Shortleaf colorbearer, Pangburn is a Congrats half-sister to Eres Tu, winner of the Dec. 26 Allaire DuPont (G3), from the further family of 1985 Preakness (G1) hero Tank’s Prospect.
Geroux is taking the Smarty Jones as an encouraging sign for Caddo River’s Derby aspirations.
“The distance doesn’t look like it’s going to be a problem,” his rider said. “Very excited about what’s coming up ahead of us with him. Looks like he can run all day…
“Hopefully, we can go on, go up the stepping stones and have a nice horse for the first Saturday in May.”