01/19/2008 12:00AM

Poni Colada no stranger to two turns


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Poni Colada is the most accomplished 3-year-old in the inaugural $50,000 Smarty Jones on Monday, and Liberty Bull is one of the field's most promising. The horses will start as top choices in the one-mile race, which closes out the four-day opening weekend at Oaklawn.

The Smarty Jones was created to give 3-year-olds a two-turn stakes at the start of the meet. Oaklawn's longtime series for 3-year-olds had previously opened about a month into the season, with the running of the Grade 3, $250,000 Southwest.

"So now when you come in here, we have a strong, four-race series," said Pat Pope, racing secretary at Oaklawn.

The Smarty Jones should produce starters for this year's Southwest on Feb. 18, and Poni Colada could be chief among them. He was a two-turn stakes winner in November, when he darted to a three-length win in the $67,000 Eddy County at a mile at Zia Park. Since the race, third-place finisher Rapper S S has won an allowance and the $100,000 Riley Allison Futurity, both at Sunland Park.

As for Poni Colada, he was freshened. The Eddy County win was his second from five career starts. He won his career debut on turf, in a 7 1/2-furlong maiden special weight race at Lone Star Park in July.

"The turf was an opportunity to run him two turns to begin with," said Steve Asmussen, who trains Poni Colada for Bob Zollars and Mark Wagner.

As a son of Breeders' Cup Classic winner Volponi and the Pleasant Colony mare Coconut Willamina, Poni Colada is bred to route. Luis Quinonez will ride the horse, who could get a stalking trip behind Liberty Bull.

Liberty Bull is stretching out around two turns after finishing second to Sok Sok in a quick running of the $99,000 Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds. The six-furlong race went in 1:09.40, and for his effort Liberty Bell earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 88, the highest last-race number in the Smarty Jones. Eddie Razo has the mount for trainer Tom Amoss.

Others making up the 12-horse field Monday include Instill, winner of the $114,000 Jim Edgar Futurity for Illinois-breds at Hawthorne; Jeri Harper, who captured the $45,000 Razorback Futurity for Arkansas-breds at Louisiana Downs; and Yes It's Bull, who was third to Kodiak Kowboy in the $127,000 Victoria at Woodbine.

* Oaklawn will give away a Smarty Jones bobblehead on Monday with each paid admission, honoring the 2004 Arkansas Derby winner who went on to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.