The Bay Area's Aleo and Gilchrist gained nationwide attention as the connections for the remarkable Lost in the Fog, who won the 2005 Eclipse as the nation's top sprinter as a 3-year-old. Hopes for a repeat for that popular star came to a shattering end last year when Lost in the Fog became sick with cancer and died. But it was difficult not to make comparisons between the two after Smokey Stover's eye-catching 3 1/4-length romp over grade I winner Proud Tower Too, winner of last year's Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I), and Bordonaro, last fall's Ancient Title (gr. I) winner. The final time was a legitimate 1:08.
“When he first came onto the racetrack, Greg wasn’t sure who was better, him or Lost in the Fog," Aleo said. "Greg’s done a great job with him. It’s exciting and even though he’s a Florida-bred, this is a nice shot in the arm for Northern California.”
Asked if he thought Smokey Stover could command the same sort of prominence Lost in the Fog did, Aleo responded, “I don’t know. I hope Greg’s going to stretch him out soon. He was impressive today and Greg’s been wanting to stretch him out.”
Gilchrist picked Smokey Stover, by Put It Back--Miladys Halo (Jolie's Halo) out of a sale in 2005 for $140,000. He raced modestly last year as a 3-year-old, winning three (one stakes) of seven starts with four second-place finishes and earnings of $97,725. His 2007 campaign is off to a rousing start, however, following a 10-length classified allowance victory at Golden Gate Fields followed by Saturday's emphatic win. With his winning share of $165,000 Saturday, the dark bay has earned $284,725 with a 5-4-0 record in nine starts.
"He had run some big races but he was going to be tested today against some pretty good stock," Gilchrist said. "I told Mr. Aleo, I said, ‘Your horse is doing really well, this is the right time to go tackle these horses, and let him show us he’s worth running against these kind of horses.’”
Breaking from the extreme outside for jockey Aaron Gryder in the field of eight at odds of 7-1, Smokey Stover was able to avoid his tendency to find trouble behind his rivals. He stalked in third on the outside as Proud Tower Too got away on the front end with fractions of :21 2/5 and :44 and swung up on the outside of Proud Tower Too and Bordonaro on the turn. He gained the lead in upper stretch when roused and drew away under slight urging.
Gryder rode Smokey Stover ($16, $8, $4) for the first time Saturday.
“The way it turned out, Proud Tower Too outbroke Bordonaro and he had three lengths on everybody right away," Gryder said. "I was fine with that because where I was, it didn’t matter. When we got to the turn, my horse switched to his left lead and I said ‘wow.’ I didn’t want to make the lead too early and he settled very nicely at that point. He was absolutely full of run. He’s a very talented horse.”
Proud Tower Too ($6.80, $3.60), making just his second start since his Golden Shaheen victory, held second by 1 1/2 lengths with regular rider David Cohen aboard. Bordonaro ($2.40), ridden by Richard Migliore, subbing for the injured Patrick Valenzuela, finished a lackluster third as the 11-10 favorite.
Debonair Joe took fourth, followed by Nightmare Affair, Red Warrior, Areyoutalkintome and Souvenir Evening. Mach Ride scratched.
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