Photo: Hodges Photography
In Gray Attempt’s last race, jockey Channing Hill took chase, following the flashy colt down the lane to end up a length behind in Fair Grounds’ Dec. 22 Sugar Bowl Stakes with Manny Wah, who’s trained by father-in-law Wayne Catalano.
Having this week worked Gray Attempt at Oaklwan Park, Hill now says he doesn’t “feel as bad” about the defeat. The son of Graydar breezed five furlongs Wednesday in 1:01.60 toward the Jan. 25 Smarty Jones Stakes, Arkansas’ first points-paying 2019 Kentucky Derby prep.
“I don’t get too many spots at the top of the lane where I think I’m the winner and I’m wrong,” Hill told Oaklawn’s publicity staff, looking back to the Sugar Bowl. “I was dead wrong the other day. I thought I had him at every stage.”
The colt cost $50,000 as a Keeneland yearling. He finished fourth on debut, won at second asking and then led from gate to wire in the Sugar Bowl.
Gray Attempt, who’s campaigned by Dwight Pruett and trained by William “Jinks” Fires, just kept going after hitting the quarter mile in 22.23 seconds, half in 45.90 and five furlongs in 57.78. His final time for six panels was 1:10.45.
“He’s a lot of class,” Hill said.
The one-mile Smarty Jones will mark Gray Attempt’s first try routing.
“I don’t think Jinks will have any issue going two turns with him,” the jockey added.
Last out stakes winners Long Range Toddy (Springboard Mile) and Six Shooter (Big Drama) are among others expected in the Smarty Jones. Super Steed, the beaten Sugar Bowl favorite, should run back as well for trainer Larry Jones, while Bob Baffert is known to ship in a contender.
Shaun Bridgmohan rode Gray Attempt at Fair Grounds. Oaklawn’s barn notes didn’t indicate whether he’d keep the mount next out, though Hill should at least get the return call aboard Manny Wah when the Derby trail resumes Jan. 19 with the Lecomte (G3) in New Orleans.
Fires won the 2016 Smarty Jones with Discreetness, while the Hill-Catalano team took the 2017 edition with Uncontested. Baffert’s ill-fated Mourinho won last year’s running in Hot Springs, Ark.