Few wanted any part of Smokey Stover, who turned away his three rivals in the $95,625 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. III) Sunday with little trouble.
Harry Aleo's top-ranked sprinter delivered a facile one-length win with Aaron Gryder in the saddle for trainer Greg Gilchrist. Smokey Stover completed the six furlongs in 1:08 2/5, one second off the Bay Meadows track mark.
The Florida-bred Smokey Stover, now three-for-three in 2007, chalked up his first graded stakes win as the 1-5 choice of the betting public. He carried 123 pounds, six to seven more than his each of his opponents.
Trickey Trevor set a quick pace of :22 3/5 and :44 2/5 with Smokey Stover, racing in second, pressing the leader on the outside on the turn. The favorite engaged for the lead coming into the lane and edged away to mid-stretch. The stalker Britt's Jules responded when asked in the stretch but could not get to Smokey Stover, who was under mild urging all the way to the wire by Gryder.
Smokey Stover, racing for the same connections as the deceased champion sprinter Lost in the Fog, is a 4-year-old gelding by Put It Back who was bred by Arthur Appleton. He sold for $140,000 in May 2005. The ultra-consistent dark bay has six wins and four seconds in 10 lifetime starts and was coming off a 3 1/4-length win over some top speedsters in the Sunshine Millions Sprint Jan. 27 at Santa Anita. Sunday's victory, worth $55,000, pushed Smokey Stover's earnings to $339,725.
Gilchrist said he expected Smokey Stover to sit off the pace and pounce.
“You knew that Jerry (Hollendorfer, trainer of Trickey Trevor) was going to send his horse and make a race of it. Once Smokey Stover got by, you knew they were going to see his black butt after that.”
Gryder, who gained the mount aboard Smokey Stover when Baze chose to ride Another Kris in the Sunshine Millions Dash, praised Smokey Stover for his ability to sit off the pace.
“I can’t say how exceptional it is when you know a horse isn’t one dimensional and you can have a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. When he sat off three or four lengths off in the Sunshine Millions, he showed he can be as powerful of a horse off the lead.”
Gilchrist is unsure where Smokey Stover will race next but is considering the Carter Handicap (gr. I) at Aqueduct, the Portrero Grande (gr. II) at Santa Anita, or the Count Fleet Handicap (gr. III) at Oaklawn.
The runner-up Britt's Jules, ridden by Kyle Kaenel, finished 2 1/2 lengths in front of Areyoutalkintome, with pacesetter Tricky Trevor two lengths farther back.
Kaenel was impressed by the tenacity of his mount. “He’s one of those horses that just never gives up. Even after the wire, he was still trying to catch Smokey Stover.”
The payoff to his backers was modest -- $2.40 and $2.10. Britt's Jules returned $2.10 and the exacta was paid $6.80. There was no show wagering.