04/09/2004 11:00PM

Smarty Jones goes to Derby unbeaten

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Smarty Jones wins the $1 million Arkansas Derby on Saturday, clinching his spot in the Kentucky Derby and putting himself two-thirds of the way toward earning a $5 million bonus.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Smarty Jones will go into the Kentucky Derby with a perfect 6-for-6 record after turning in a dominating performance in the Grade 2, $1 million before a closing-day crowd of 62,264 at Oaklawn on Saturday.

Smarty Jones won the 1 1/8-mile race by 1 1/2 lengths over a late-running Borrego. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to Pro Prado, who was third. Following the race, the connections of Borrego and Pro Prado both indicated their horses would advance to the Kentucky Derby.

Smarty Jones was making his graded-stakes debut in the Arkansas Derby, and with the first-place check of $600,000, he has enough graded earnings to be sure of a spot in the Kentucky Derby. He also took his second step toward winning Oaklawn's $5 million Centennial bonus, which rewards the horse who can sweep the $200,000 Rebel Stakes, the Arkansas Derby, and the Kentucky Derby.

Smarty Jones has stepped up his game with each start, and he did so again Saturday. Breaking from post 11 and negotiating a muddy track, he broke sharply, used his speed to get position, and settled just off pacesetter Purge. Purge set fractions of 22.64 seconds for the opening quarter and 46.95 for the half-mile before being overtaken by Smarty Jones midway through the final turn. Smarty Jones opened up on the field in the stretch, while Borrego charged late to cut into some of his advantage. Smarty Jones covered the distance in 1:49.41.

"It kind of set up the way I thought," said John Servis, who trains Smarty Jones. "Early on I thought nobody wanted to be in front, and for about the first eighth of a mile I was afraid we were going to end up there and I didn't want to be there. But when I saw Purge go on and I thought this was going to be good."

Stewart Elliott, who has been aboard Smarty Jones in each of his starts, rode a flawless race on the horse.

"When I got to the lead, he had plenty left and finished strong and galloped out good," he said.

Smarty Jones paid $4 as the even-money favorite in the field of 11.

The remaining order of finish was Harvard Avenue, Purge, Mambo Train, Shadowland, Every Advantage, Mr. Jester, Tricky Taboo, and Hasslefree.

Smarty Jones has now earned $878,355 for his owners, Roy and Pat Chapman. They bred the colt in Pennsylvania in the name of their Someday Farm. Smarty Jones started his career at Philadelphia Park, winning his maiden and a restricted stakes there before going on to Aqueduct and winning his two-turn debut in the $81,000 Count Fleet in January.

He then shipped to Oaklawn and has swept the track's three major stakes for 3-year-olds, all of which were increased in value in celebration of the track's 100th anniversary. Smarty Jones won the $100,000 Southwest on Feb. 28 and the Rebel on March 20 before taking the Arkansas Derby, which was doubled in value for 2004.

Handle on the 12-race program was $12,345,822.