Barn Notes 12/29/23

Compiled by Robert Yates

A field of nine is entered Friday in Oaklawn’s $300,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds to be run Monday.

Lengthened from one mile to 1 1/16-miles since last season, The Smarty Jones offers 21 total points (10-5-3-2-1, respectively) to the top five finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby.

Entered, from the rail out, were: Informed Patriot for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, Catching Freedom (Brad Cox), Lagynos (Asmussen), Mystik Dan (Kenny McPeek), Mo Winning (Robertino Diodoro), Gettysburg Address (Cox), Just Steel (D. Wayne Lukas), Chaperone (Ron Moquett) and Fidget (Cox).

Just Steel exits a victory in the $225,500 Ed Brown Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs Nov. 25 at Churchill Downs. Informed Patriot and Gettysburg Address finished third and fourth, respectively, in the $200,000 G3-Street Sense Stakes Oct. 29 at Churchill Downs. Mo Winning was a supplemental nominee.

Probable post time for the Smarty Jones, the ninth of 10 races, is 4:14 p.m. (Central). Racing begins at 12:30 p.m.

Skelly Returns Saturday

Multiple stakes winner Skelly is entered in Saturday’s eighth race at Oaklawn, a six-furlong $143,000 allowance for race for 3-year-olds and upward.

Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Skelly became Oaklawn’s top older male sprinter last season after being gelded and adding blinkers. He won his final four starts of the meeting, including the $500,000 G3-Count Fleet Sprint Handicap April 15 and the inaugural $150,000 Lake Hamilton Stakes May 6.

“Just trying to get him back going,” Asmussen said.

Skelly hasn’t started since the $100,000 Speightstown Sprint Stakes May 29 at Lone Star Park, which marked the gelding’s fifth consecutive victory. All five victories were 6 furlongs. Asmussen said he decided to freshen Skelly following the Speightstown Sprint and point for the 2023-2024 Oaklawn season.

“He had run several very hard races early in the year, over the winter,” Asmussen said. “Needed a break.”

Skelly, the 4-5 program favorite, is scheduled to break from post 4 under regular rider Ricardo Santana Jr. Also entered are millionaire Necker Island and Sir Wellington, second and third, respectively, in the $150,000 Ring the Bell Stakes Dec. 9 at Oaklawn; Edge to Edge, third in the $200,000 G3-Whitmore Stakes in March; and Manny Wah, fourth in the 20022 $2 million G1-Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland.

Probable post time for Saturday’s eighth race is 3:46 p.m.

O Canada

Robertino Diodoro isn’t the only Canadian trainer with a horse entered Saturday at Oaklawn. Newcomer Ian Jewell has two entrants – Key to Success in the third race and City of Clouds in the sixth race.

Jewell, 56, has four horses on the grounds. All are for WYN Racing Stables Corp. of Christopher and Tasha Ceraldi. Jewell trains privately for the couple, who reside in Vancouver, British Columbia, approximately 150 miles north of Seattle.

“We might lose some horses and replace horses,” Jewell said. “But we’re looking for a winter home and this is all unfamiliar territory. My wife and I have absolutely loved it. We’re just trying to feel it out and so far, we’ve loved it.”

Jewell said he was steered to Oaklawn by trainer Mike Puhich, a Pacific Northwest native who annually winters in Hot Springs. Puhich also has had horses for WYN.

“He was a good connection down here for what my owners wanted,” Jewell said. “He wanted us to come on down. The owners wanted to come, so I figured, ‘Why not?’ If I wasn’t here, they (horses) would all be turned out.”

Jewell has nine career training victories, the first coming Nov. 8, 1992, at Sandown Park in British Columbia. Before relaunching his training career, Jewell spent more than a decade working under the late Glen Todd, an iconic British Columbian horseman, and, most recently, as an assistant to trainer Larry Grieve (Tasha Ceraldi’s uncle). Jewell won three of nine starts this year at Vancouver’s Hastings Racecourse, which ran April 30-Oct. 15.

Jewell’s most accomplished horse is Accidental Hero, who won the nine-furlong $125,000 G3-British Columbia Derby at Hastings. The 3-year-old son of Mo Town had been previously trained by Grieve after being claimed by Puhich for $40,000 out of a May 5 victory at Oaklawn.

“I’m going to try to place him where he’s going to be really competitive,” Jewell said. “Running in stakes in Canada, in a small racetrack, is nothing compared to down here. Placing him will be an art. Want him to be competitive and, hopefully, win.”

Finish Lines

Former WinStar Farm head trainer Destin Heath is scheduled have his first career Oaklawn starter, Darvesh, in Saturday’s fourth race, a $40,000 maiden-claiming sprint for 3-year-olds and upward. Heath is 0 for 15 in his training career, according to Equibase. … Jockey Harry Hernandez is scheduled to make his Oaklawn riding debut in Saturday’s second for trainer Robertino Diodoro, a major client. Hernandez (broken collarbone) missed the first five days of the 2023-2024 Oaklawn meet. He has been leading rider at Canterbury Park and Turf Paradise. … Jockey Nik Juarez enters Friday with 983 career victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. He has two victories this season at Oaklawn.