For Immediate Release

Contact: Jennifer Hoyt, Director of Racing or 501-363-4305

Victory Formation

Photo credit: Coady Photography


HOT SPRINGS, AR (Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022) – Unbeaten Victory Formation is scheduled to make his two-turn debut in Sunday’s $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes, Oaklawn’s first of four Kentucky Derby points races.

Probable post time for the 1-mile Smarty Jones, which goes as the eighth of nine races, is 4:10 p.m. (Central). Racing begins at 12:30 p.m. The Smarty Jones will offer 20 points (10-4-3-2-1, respectively) to the top five finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby (G1).

Owned by prominent North Little Rock, Ark., businessman Frank Fletcher and famed Spendthrift Farm, Victory Formation will be making his stakes debut after winning his first two starts this fall in Kentucky. He is the 6-5 program favorite for the Smarty Jones.

“It’s a good race,” said Brad Cox, who trains Victory Formation and fellow Smarty Jones entrant Angel of Empire. “I’m looking forward to getting Victory Formation around two turns. He’s had two starts sprinting and performed very well. I think he’s given us enough confidence to think he’s going to be better going long, based off his pedigree and how he’s finished up his races.”

Victory Formation, purchased for $340,000 last May at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-old in training sale, is from the first crop of 2017 Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit. Victory Formation was a front-running 4 ¾-length winner going 6 ½ furlongs in his Oct. 21 career debut at Keeneland, then, pressing the pace, returned to clear his first allowance condition by a neck at 6 furlongs Nov. 26 at Churchill Downs. The Nov. 26 runner-up, Two Eagles River, is the 6-5 program favorite for the $150,000 Renaissance Stakes at 6 furlongs Saturday at Oaklawn.

Victory Formation, who has been based this winter at Fair Grounds, is scheduled to break from the extreme outside, post 8, Sunday under new rider Flavien Prat. Mile races at Oaklawn begin and end at the sixteenth pole in the stretch.

“It’s OK,” Cox said of the post. “I never normally don’t get too involved with the post, just because it is what it is. It’s where we have to play from and that’s what we’ll do.”

The projected eight-horse Smarty Jones field from the rail out: C. J.’s Storm, Angel Rodriguez to ride, 117 pounds, 30-1 on the morning line; How Did He Do That, Isaac Castillo, 117, 12-1; Communication Memo, Ricardo Santana Jr., 117, 5-1; Western Ghent, Cristian Torres, 117, 30-1; Ten Days Later, David Cabrera, 119, 7-2; Denington, Francisco Arrieta, 117, 4-1; Angel of Empire, Joe Talamo, 117, 15-1; and Victory Formation, Flavien Prat, 119, 6-5.

Kenny McPeek, who won the 2022 Smarty Jones with Dash Attack, is scheduled to send out Denington and Ten Days Later. Denington exits a fifth-place finish, beaten only 1 ½ lengths, in the $400,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles Nov. 26 at Churchill Downs. Ten Days Later will be making his stakes debut after breaking his maiden at 1 1/16 miles Oct. 20 at Keeneland.

“Both colts are showing professionalism, talent,” McPeek said. “Good next step for both of them. They’re both still eligible for first-level allowance as well. If they’re competitive, great, if not we’ll regress a little bit and go to (allowance) other than.”

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen also has two scheduled starters in supplemental nominee Communication Memo and How Did He Do That.

Communication Memo broke his maiden at 1 mile Dec. 16 at Oaklawn, becoming the first Oaklawn winner for his sire, Bolt d’Oro. How Did He Do That finished fifth in the $150,000 Advent Stakes at 5 ½ furlongs Dec. 9 at Oaklawn in his last start.

Angel of Empire, a son of champion and 2017 Arkansas Derby winner Classic Empire, will be making his stakes debut after recording two 1-mile victories at Horseshoe Indianapolis, including a Nov. 14 entry-level allowance score in his last start.

“He’s proven around two turns,” Cox said. “He likes two turns, there’s no doubt about that, and I think the longer the better. This race fit well on the calendar. We’ll see if he’s a horse that can fit on the Triple Crown trail.”

Western Ghent tries to rebound from a ninth-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

“It’s experiment time, as you might guess,” Lukas said.

C. J.’s Storm finished eighth in the Advent for co-owner/trainer John Haran.

No Smarty Jones entrant will race on the anti-bleeder medication Lasix, meaning all are eligible to collect Kentucky Derby qualifying points.

Oaklawn’s Kentucky Derby points series continues with the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 28, $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 25 and the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at 1 1/8 miles April 1.