Sprint to the lead. Run everyone off their feet. Hang on to secure the victory. Rinse and repeat.
That’s been the magic formula for the up-and-coming three-year-old Gray Attempt, who secured his third straight front-running triumph when forging to a hard-fought win in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes on January 25 at Oaklawn Park. Never mind that he was stretching out to a mile for the first time—he just followed his script and prevailed easy as 1-2-3.
Need a script breakdown? Gray Attempt kept it pretty straightforward. Step 1: Break like a rocket from the far outside post position and clear the field heading into the first turn. Step 2: Relax willingly on the lead while carving out sharp fractions of :23.12, :46.86, and 1:11.01 under jockey Shaun Bridgmohan. Step 3: Turn back a strong inside challenge from Remington Springboard Mile winner Long Range Toddy to win by a well-measured neck, with Boldor another half-length back in third and the 3-2 race favorite Bankit never a threat in sixth place.
Maybe Gray Attempt didn’t finish particularly fast (running the final quarter-mile in :25.93 seconds), and crowded finishes can be a sign of an uninspiring race, but it’s hard to knock the grit he showed down the homestretch, and despite his narrow margin of victory he appeared to be surprisingly in control of the race. Long Range Toddy had every chance to make the pass in the final furlong, but was unable to close the gap as Gray Attempt fought to the wire in 1:36.94 seconds, which translated to a Beyer speed figure of 84.
Notably, the first five horses to complete the opening quarter-mile were the first five horses across the finish line in identical order, a fact that was not lost on trainer Steve Asmussen, who sent out Long Range Toddy, Boldor, and Bankit. “Obviously, I’m disappointed as heck in Bankit, but Long Range Toddy and Boldor both ran solid,” Asmussen told Oaklawn publicity. “Kind of a merry-go-round race. They went in :46 and change fractions. That’s pretty solid, but nobody changed any positions. First day of the meet, things will change. We’ll see what happens.”
The Smarty Jones marked the second stakes victory of Gray Attempt’s career, following a similarly gutsy win in the six-furlong Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds. In addition to the $90,000 winner’s share of the purse, Gray Attempt collected 10 qualifications points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Meanwhile, Long Range Toddy earned four points for his runner-up effort, bringing his total to 14 points.
Following the race, trainer Jinks Fires told Oaklawn publicity that Gray Attempt would likely target the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (gr. III) on February 18 at Oaklawn Park, the second of four Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races being held at the Arkansas racetrack this winter.
A son of Graydar out the Consolidator mare Attempt to Name, Gray Attempt was bred by Wynnstay LLC, Donna Moore, and Jim Richardson.