02/26/2004 1:00AM

So far, simply perfect

Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Smarty Jones, with trainer John Servis (right), brings the best credentials into the Southwest.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - With a superior Beyer Speed Figure at 2, a two-turn stakes win by January of his 3-year-old year, and a perfect race record, it is difficult to get past Smarty Jones in the $100,000 at Oaklawn Park on Saturday.

That's not to say the field is lacking in quality. There are 10 promising colts, including Pro Prado, Proper Prado, Wildcat Shoes, Two Down Automatic, and South Africa in the one-mile race that starts the march to the $1 million Arkansas Derby.

But the most accomplished horse in the field is Smarty Jones. He has won his three career starts by a combined 27 3/4 lengths, and will be making his first start since Jan. 3, when he won his two-turn debut in the $81,000 Count Fleet at Aqueduct.

Smarty Jones ran the second-fastest Count Fleet in 21 runnings of the mile and 70-yard race. His finish time, over the inner track, was 1:41.40.

But Smarty Jones had a following even before that smashing win. Back in November, he won the $65,000 Pennsylvania Nursery at Philadelphia Park by 15 lengths and earned a 105 Beyer, equaling the highest number given to a 2-year-old in 2003.

"He does things pretty easy," said John Servis, who trains Smarty Jones for his breeder, Someday Farm.

Servis brought the colt to Oaklawn in January, in large part because he liked how the distances of the track's 3-year-old program flow. He did not want to have to turn back Smarty Jones to a one-turn mile, a possibility if he had remained in New York.

Smarty Jones has adapted well. A handsome, mature-looking colt, he was willing to race behind the leaders in the Count Fleet. His connections hope to employ similar tactics in the Southwest.

"I'd love to see him sitting off the lead," said Servis, who has given the mount to Stewart Elliott, the rider of Smarty Jones in each of his races.

The leader could be Wildcat Shoes. A quick colt making his two-turn debut, his last win came in the $60,000 Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds in December. He covered six furlongs in 1:09.60.

In his most recent out, Wildcat Shoes finished second, beaten a neck by Pro Prado, in the $50,000 Mountain Valley at Oaklawn on Jan. 24.

"He swerved in from the stick," said Jinks Fires, who trains Wildcat Shoes.

Two Down Automatic was third last out in the Grade 3 Lecomte at Fair Grounds.