Mark Casse had the Midas touch last year in the Triple Crown and its prep races, and the trainer will try to add to that success when he sends out lightly raced Lynn's Map in Friday's $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at one mile, the first of four Kentucky Derby points races at Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Ark.
Lynn's Map was scheduled to make his stakes debut in the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes (G3) last Saturday at Fair Grounds, but he was scratched after drawing a far outside post position, 14, for the 1 1/16-mile race. Casse won the race anyway with Enforceable, continuing a torrid stretch for the trainer with recent 3-year-old prospects. Casse won last year's Lecomte and $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds with War of Will, who later captured the Preakness, the second leg of racing's Triple Crown. Casse also won the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, with Sir Winston.
“It's a little early yet,” Casse said Tuesday morning, outlining his 2020 Triple Crown outlook. “I don't want to get too crazy.”
Lynn's Map, who is from the first crop of multiple Grade 1 winner and millionaire Liam's Map, has won 2 of 3 starts overall, including an entry-level allowance score by a head Dec. 21 at Fair Grounds. Runner-up in that one-mile 70-yard race was Mr. Monomoy, who returned to run third, beaten 1 3/4 lengths by Enforceable, in the Lecomte. Owned by HRH Prince Sultan Bin Mishal Al Saud, Lynn's Map was purchased last April for $285,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s spring sale of 2-year-olds in training.
“He's beautiful,” Casse said. “We got him, I want to say, a couple of months after they bought him. I think they gave him a little time and from the beginning he's always shown that he's pretty good. I think his last race was an exceptionally good race. He's a beautiful horse.”
Lynn's Map is scheduled to break from post 8 under Miguel Mena, who will be riding the colt for the first time Friday. Lynn's Map was ridden in his Sept. 29 career debut at Churchill Downs by Adam Beschizza, his Nov. 8 maiden victory at Churchill Downs by Tyler Gaffalione and last month by Corey Lanerie.
“Our original plan was to run at the Fair Grounds,” Casse said. “Then we draw a bad post and I said, 'Well, we'll look at Oaklawn.' By then, it was just tough … but I've had wonderful luck with Miguel. He won the Stephen Foster for me, he won the Kentucky Downs Juvenile, the 'Win and You're In' Bourbon. He rode for me in the Breeders' Cup, so I'm not worried about that. That's the least of my worries.”
The Fair Grounds-based Mena has two career stakes victories at Oaklawn – $50,000 Dixieland for 3-year-olds sprinters in 2009 aboard Silver City for trainer Bret Calhoun and the $75,000 Carousel for older female sprinters in 2012 aboard Beat the Blues for Calhoun. Casse has three career Oaklawn stakes victories, including the $1-million Arkansas Derby (G1) in 2017 with champion Classic Empire. Casse captured two stakes races for 3-year-old fillies last year in Hot Springs – $125,000 Martha Washington with Power Gal and the $200,000 Honeybee (G3) with Chocolate Kisses.
The Smarty Jones will offer 17 points to the top four finishers (10-4-2-1) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. Oaklawn's Kentucky Derby points series continues with the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 17, $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14 and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 11.
The projected Smarty Jones field from the rail out: Lykan, Terry Thompson to ride, 115 pounds, 20-1 on the morning line; Silver Prospector, Ricardo Santana Jr., 119, 5-2; Shared Sense, Florent Geroux, 115, 12-1; Nucky, Joe Talamo, 119, 10-1; Jungle Runner, Ramon Vazquez, 119, 20-1; Gold Street, Martin Garcia, 119, 5-1; Shoplifted, Tyler Gaffalione, 119, 3-1; Lynn's Map, Miguel Mena, 117, 6-1; and Three Technique, Irad Ortiz Jr., 119, 9-2.
Silver Prospector, Jungle Runner, Gold Street and Shoplifted are trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, a 10-time Oaklawn training champion who is seeking his first Smarty Jones victory.
The Smarty Jones will go as the eighth race on the nine-race opening-day program, with probable post time 3:52 p.m. (Central). Racing begins at 12:35 p.m.
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