After splashing to a record-breaking victory in his 3-year-old debut, Uncontested will be pointed to the $ 500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 20 at Oaklawn, trainer Wayne Catalano said.
Uncontested launched his 3-year-old campaign Monday at Oaklawn, coasting to a 5 1/4-length wire-to-wire victory over Petrov in the $ 150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes to earn 10 points toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby.
Oaklawn’s Kentucky Derby prep series continues with the Southwest, $ 900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 18 and $ 1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 15. The plan, Catalano said, is for Uncontested to start in all four races.
“That’s what we’re here for,” Catalano said.
Under Catalano’s son-in-law, Channing Hill, 6-5 favorite Uncontested ran the mile over a sloppy, sealed surface in 1:36.32, shattering the previous stakes record of 1:38.05 (set last year by Discreetness) and recorded the most lopsided margin of victory in the race’s 10-year history.
Uncontested’s co-owner, Harry Rosenblum of Little Rock, Ark., purchased Uncontested with an eye toward the Arkansas Derby, a race he was third in last year (Whitmore) and second in 2015 (Far Right).
“As a 2-year-old before today, I felt that this horse was a better horse than either one of them,” Rosenblum said of Uncontested, a $ 20,000 Keeneland September Yearling bargain. “Not knocking either one of them because I still own both of them, or part of both of them. But his numbers are better. I think he’s got a much longer stride, and he’s got a very, very mature mind for a horse of his age. He’s easy to handle. Nothing bothers him.”
Uncontested won 1 of 2 starts last year, narrowly missing Keeneland’s 6 1/2-furlong track record in a front-running six-length debut victory Oct. 19 before finishing fourth in the $ 200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles Nov. 26 at Churchill Downs.
Uncontested, after breaking from sluggishly from post 12, shot to the lead before tiring in the final furlong to finish five lengths behind unbeaten McCraken, a leading Kentucky Derby candidate.
Racing on an off track for the first time Monday, Uncontested was never pressed in the Smarty Jones, recording the fastest splits for a half-mile (:46.21), 6 furlongs (1:10.70) and 7 furlongs (1:23.48) in race history.
“The speed that he has, he can do it,” Catalano said. “That will help him. When you’ve got controlling speed, it can kind of control races like that. And then it can always put you in the race.”
Uncontested, a son of Tiz Wonderful, earned a career-high 96 Beyer Speed Figure for his Smarty Jones victory, the colt’s second in three starts. He has earned $ 135,300.
Trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs said Petrov will “probably” try Uncontested again in the 1 1/16-mile Southwest.
Moquett noted that Petrov, in his two-turn debut, was in chase mode during most of Monday’s race to try and apply some pressure to Uncontested, 1 ½ lengths clear after a half-mile and three-quarters of a mile.
“Today, everything went his way,” said Moquett, also Petrov’s co-owner. “We’ll see if it goes his way the next time. He’s a great horse, a nice horse, but today everything went his way.”
Moquett saddled Far Right to win the 2015 Smarty Jones and originally had Uncontested before Rosenblum moved his horses to Catalano last fall. Moquett and Rosenblum still co-own Whitmore, a powerful third-level allowance/optional claiming sprint winner in Sunday’s eighth race at Oaklawn.
Whitmore ran second in the Southwest and Rebel.
Rosenblum owns Uncontested and Far Right in partnership with Robert LaPenta.
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