04/04/2004 11:00PM

'Smarty' looks sharp in workout


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Smarty Jones, who is unbeaten in five career starts, indicated his readiness to remain perfect when he turned in a powerful work last Saturday in preparation for this Saturday's $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. He is expected to face 10 others in the 1 1/8-mile race, which will be drawn on Wednesday.

Smarty Jones worked five furlongs in a bullet 58.69 seconds under jockey Willie Martinez. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:10.80 and seven-eighths in 1:23.74.

"That's his best work yet," said John Servis, who trains Smarty Jones for Someday Farm.

Servis said Smarty Jones eased into the work in a relaxed fashion, and was responsive to his rider throughout.

"When he turned for home, he switched back to his right lead and he really grabbed the bit and wanted to go on, so Willie let him run a little bit through the stretch," said Servis. "He galloped out really good."

Stewart Elliott, who has ridden Smarty Jones in all of his starts, will be aboard the colt in the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby. Smarty Jones has won four stakes in five starts, with his last two victories coming at Oaklawn in the $100,000 Southwest and the $200,000 Rebel. He is the lone 3-year-old eligible for a $5 million bonus from Oaklawn. It is given to the owner of the horse who can win the Rebel, Arkansas Derby, and Kentucky Derby.

Hasslefree the hope for Lukas

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who has won 13 Triple Crown races, said his hopes for this year's Kentucky Derby lie with Hasslefree. The colt will start next in the Arkansas Derby, and was scheduled to arrive at Oaklawn on Tuesday.

In his last start, Hasslefree finished sixth in the Grade 2, $500,000 Lane's End at Turfway Park. Overall, he is a two-time winner who placed in both the Grade 3 Flash and the Grade 3 Tremont last year at Belmont.

"He had a terrible trip in the Lane's End," Lukas said. "He got annihilated at the gate and everything and I think he deserves another chance. He's a nice horse."

Lukas had not decided on a rider for the colt as of Sunday. Hasslefree races for Bob and Beverly Lewis.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said on Monday that Cornelio Velasquez will ride Purge in the Arkansas Derby. In his last start, Purge finished second in the Rebel. Purge was also to arrive on Tuesday.

Others probable for the Arkansas Derby are Borrego, Foxtrot Oscar, Harvard Avenue, Mambo Train, Mr. Jester, Pro Prado, Shadowland, and Tricky Taboo. Officials said Jon Court will ride Harvard Avenue, while Tony D'Amico has the mount on Lane's End runner-up Tricky Taboo.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman