HOT SPRINGS -- At least one Kentucky Derby hopeful at Oaklawn Park is entered in a one-turn sprint rarely positioned anywhere near the traditional Derby Trail.
Gray Attempt, by Graydar, won the $150,000 1-mile Smarty Jones Stakes on Jan. 25, Oaklawn's opening-day feature and the first of four races at the track to offer Derby qualifying points. Gray Attempt earned 10 points with his win, or slightly less than one-third of the total to assure him a spot in the 20-horse Derby starting gate at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on May 4.
Today's 10-race program at Oaklawn includes the $125,000 6-furlong Gazebo Stakes for 3-year-olds, in which Gray Attempt is one of six entrants, and the $100,000 6-furlong Nodouble Breeders' Stakes for Arkansas-bred horses 3 years old and up.
Post time for the Gazebo is scheduled for 5:09 p.m. The Nobouble's post is scheduled for 4:09 p.m.
Gray Attempt is owned by Dwight Pruett of Texarkana and trained by Jinks Fires of Hot Springs. His last race was Feb. 18 in the $500,000 1 1/16 mile Southwest Stakes, the second race at Oaklawn to offer Derby qualifying points. A collision late in the first turn drove Gray Attempt into the inside rail, a jolt significant enough for him to miss an important stretch of training.
"I had to walk him for two weeks after that last race," Fires said. "We did whatever we could do to get him sound again."
The break left Gray Attempt short of fitness required for the Grade II $750,000 1 1/16-mile Rebel Stakes last Saturday, Fires said. With only the $1 million Grade I $1 million 11/8-mile Arkansas Derby left on Oaklawn's schedule among races to offer Kentucky Derby points, Fires said he selected the Gazebo as the best remaining prep for Gray Attempt's final shot at Derby qualification.
"This race should help him," Fires said. "We're just trying to get him back, ready to fight again."
"We're just looking to get the work in," Pruett said. "I think this is pretty good. We'll get a work, and we might pick up part of that purse, also."
The Arkansas Derby is scheduled for April 13. Gray Attempt will need a finish of third or higher to have any chance to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. The Arkansas Derby offers 100 points to the winner, 40 to second, 20 to third, and 10 to fourth. No horse with 33 or more points has failed to qualify the since the points system was put into place in 2012.
Jockey Jon Court will ride Gray Attempt in the Gazebo one week after he rode Long Range Toddy to a win in the first of two Rebel divisions for owner Willis Horton of Marshall and trainer Steve Asmussen, a member of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Long Range Toddy has 54 Derby qualifying points, so Court likely has earned a ride into the Run for the Roses, but he said he can't rest.
"I'm doing good," Court said. "I feel satisfied right now, but each day is a new day. In this game, you can go from hero to zero real quick."
Fires made it clear that the Gazebo is more than a mere prep race for Gray Attempt.
"When you see me put one out there, I'm trying to win," Fires said. "I might put them in a bad spot sometimes, but it's not because we're not trying. We're always trying to get whatever we can get, and I think he's going to do well."
"We're looking to this race with great anticipation," Court said.
Six Shooter, trained by Paul Holthus, is also entered in the Gazebo off starts in two Derby preps at Oaklawn. A son of Trappe Shot and maternal grandson of Lemon Drop Kid, Six Shooter finished fourth in the Smarty Jones and Southwest. Holthus said a sprint in his next start seemed appropriate for Six Shooter.
"He's raced hard all year," Holthus said. "This race is going to help him a bunch, and we wouldn't really have to do too much with him after coming off those route races. I think it was time to give him a little breather."
Holthus said he did not think Six Shooter is of Kentucky Derby caliber, but he has not eliminated the Arkansas Derby as the colt's next race.
"There's always a chance," Holthus said. "I'll let him tell me. The horse is doing really good right now, but I definitely think he was due a break."
Sports on 03/23/2019
Print Headline: Gray Attempt out to regain his form