01/18/2013 4:37PM

Oaklawn: Officer Alex ready to try two turns in Smarty Jones

Alyssa Spakowski/EQUI-PHOTO
Pennsylvania Nursery winner Officer Alex will be one of the prime contenders in Monday's Smarty Jones Stakes.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Officer Alex will run Monday in the $150,000 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park, and he has more than just a few things in common with the race’s namesake. Officer Alex is a Pennsylvania-bred, like Smarty Jones. He also is wintering at Oaklawn, won the Pennsylvania Nursery as a 2-year-old, and his regular rider is Stewart Elliott.

But where Officer Alex’s story goes from there will start to be written on Monday. He will be making his two-turn debut in the Smarty Jones, the first stakes in Oaklawn’s series for 3-year-olds. The one-mile race had a potential field of eight or nine starters on Friday, with Oaklawn racing secretary Pat Pope expecting Always in a Tiz, Avare, Brown Almighty, King Henny, Texas Bling, and Will Take Charge.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Officer Alex has made three starts. He won his debut in a maiden special weight at 5 1/2 furlongs at Parx on Sept. 8, then after a troubled start in a first-level allowance sprint at Churchill Downs on Oct. 28 came back and won the $76,000 Pennsylvania Nursery at seven furlongs at Parx on Dec. 8. “He accomplished the seven-eighths in good fashion, finished full of run, and his dosage says he’s got a license to go on,” trainer Lynn Whiting said regarding the two-turn test for Officer Alex.

Whiting, who trains Officer Alex, a son of Officer, for the partnership of Winning Horses Stable and Choctaw Racing Stable, also made note of the company the horse kept in the Pennsylvania Nursery. He defeated a stakes-winning Smarty Jones colt, Res Judicata, who is trained by John Servis, while Siete de Oros, who was third, came back in his next start to miss by a head in the Grade 2 Jerome at Aqueduct.

As for Officer Alex, he worked five furlongs in company in 59.60 seconds Thursday at Oaklawn in his final prep for the Smarty Jones. Jockey Robby Albarado was aboard for the move, while Elliott is scheduled to come in and ride, according to Whiting.

Avare, who in his last start won the Eddie Logan at Santa Anita, is in town for the Smarty Jones and is to be ridden by Kevin Krigger, said his trainer, Doug O’Neill. Pope said another shipper settled in at Oaklawn is Always in a Tiz, who in his last start ran second to Vyjack in the $75,000 Traskwood at Aqueduct.

Tour Guide, the winner of last month’s Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds, was being considered for a start in the Smarty Jones but likely will not go, said his trainer, Bret Calhoun. He was to make a final call on entry day Saturday. Calhoun said if the horse does not start, he could run next in the $50,000 Allen’s Landing, a seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds at Sam Houston on Jan. 26.

Texas Bling and Will Take Charge finished 1-2 in last month’s $300,000 Springboard Mile at Remington Park. Texas Bling won the race at 128-1. He is to be ridden Monday by Cliff Berry, said his trainer, Danele Durham.

Midas Dancer, a stakes-placed colt who was second in a first-level allowance at Churchill Downs in his last start Nov. 24, is possible for the Smarty Jones, said his trainer, Ken McPeek.

The Smarty Jones is worth 10 points to the winner on the new Kentucky Derby system governing eligibility if the classic is oversubscribed. This year’s Smarty Jones was boosted in value by $50,000.