Smoocher Tries New Look in Florida Derby

(from Woodbine release)
Sovereign Award finalist Smoocher will be sporting blinkers and new shoes when he runs in Saturday's $1-million Florida Derby (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park.

After two disappointing races in the Sunshine State, Woodbine-based trainer David Bell believes Smoocher, who was on the short list for 2003 top 2-Year-Old Male honors in Canada, could make his third Florida start the charm.

"We put some blinkers on him and changed his shoes," said Bell, of Franks Farms' son of Kissin Kris, who captured the Grey Breeders' Cup Stakes (Can-II) at Woodbine on Oct. 5 while earning $231,653 in 2003.

"(Jockeys) Jose Santos and Jim McAleney said the same thing about him. Jim actually said we might have to put blinkers on him one day. The talent is there, but he just isn't focused when he should be."

Smoocher will have to overcome an outstanding group of sophomores, including unbeaten Tapit and the superb Read The Footnotes, along with the outside post 10 in the 1 1/8-mile race.

But Bell isn't about to concede defeat before the gates open.

"We wouldn't put him in the race if we didn't feel he had a shot," said Bell of the Florida-bred. "Hopefully, he can show a little bit of early speed, do his own thing and stay fairly close to the pace.

"He's doing very well and in his last two works, he's taken off from the eighth-pole on his own and looked good."

Santos, who guided Funny Cide to a victory in the 2003 Kentucky Derby, will once again get the call aboard Smoocher, who finished fifth to the well-regarded Second of June in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream on Jan. 17.

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