"I usually give it 48 hours before making plans, but the Breeders’ Cup is the plan right now," said Greg Gilchrist, who conditions the 4-year-old gelding for owner Harry J. Aleo. "If he’s doing really well and a race comes up, he might have another start between now and the Breeders’ Cup.”
The TVG Sprint is Oct. 27.
Although he had just three rivals, Smokey Stover was tested while going off at 10 cents on the dollar, vying head-and-head with Cougar Cat for the lead through the opening half-mile. Fractions were :22 2/5 and :45. At the top of the lane, the dark bay responded to urging from jockey Aaron Gryder to pull away to a two-length win.
“The race unfolded like we thought it would," Gilchrist said. "He’s not truly a speed horse, and we figured (Cougar Cat) would be watching us and we’d be watching (him). He finished well, and I was happy to see that."
Park Avenue Ball rallied gamely on the outside for Joe Bravo to take second by five lengths over Cougar Cat, the second choice ridden by Eddie Castro. High Blitz trailed throughout.
“He ran a good race today, but you haven’t seen his best yet," Gryder said. "I was hoping that one of the horses inside would show some speed and let him sit off of it a little. I went out there and rode him like he was the best horse in the race and he was. (Park Avenue Ball) is a nice horse and he tried to make a race of it, but he never really threatened. I was just focused on getting a good race into him for the Breeders’ Cup.”
A Florida-bred son of Put It Back, Smokey Stover earned his eighth win in 13 starts and pushed his earnings to $568,725. He paid $2.20 and $2.10 and topped an $8 exacta payoff. Smokey Stover carried top weight of 123 pounds.
Park Avenue Ball, who toted 117, returned $2.10.
Smokey Stover rebounded from a third-place finish in his last race, the Smile Sprint Handicap (gr. II) on a good track at Calder July 7. He was outpaced that day and finished 8 1/2 lengths behind Mach Ride, the worst showing of his career. Prior to that he had won four consecutive races this year to reach the top of the national sprint rankings. The streak included a 4 1/2-length win in the Portrero Grande (gr. II) at Santa Anita in April.
Gilchrist and Aleo, the same Northern California-based connections of 2005 champion sprinter Lost in the Fog, have spaced Smokey Stover's races out this year in hopes of avoiding tiring him before the Breeders' Cup.
Callmetony scratched from the Icecapade.