A salty quintet of sprinters led by Smokey Stover will contest the six-furlong, $100,000 Icecapade Stakes at Monmouth Park Sept. 1. Any stakes at Monmouth, site of the 2007 Breeders' Cup World Championships Oct. 26-27, takes on significance as connections seek to find out if their horses like the racing surface before making plans to run in the Breeders' Cup.
Such is the case with Smokey Stover, who climbed to the head of the Sprint division early this year with facile victories in the Sunshine Millions Sprint, Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Sprint Handicap (gr. III), and Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II). Smokey Stover, a 4-year- old gelding by Put It Back, has never finished worse than third in 12 career starts.
However, one of those thirds was in his most recent effort, the Smile Sprint Handicap (gr. II) at Calder in July, in which he finished 8 1/2 lengths behind Mach Ride. Trainer Greg Gilchrist and owner Harry Aleo, the same connections of champion sprinter Lost in the Fog, have decided to space Smokey Stover's races out, with the Icecapade a major prep for the TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I).
Smokey Stover, who will carry highweight of 123 pounds, has been training forwardly for the Icecapade, including a :58.3 spin around Bay Meadows for five furlongs Aug. 18.
The most accomplished foe he'll face in the Icecapade is millionaire Park Avenue Ball, a multiple graded-stakes winner for Char-Mari Stable. The New Jersey-bred is quite at home at his local racetrack, where he has won six of nine starts, with a pair of seconds and a third.
However, he is winless at the six-furlong distance from two attempts. He is also winless from a trio of 2007 starts. Park Avenue Ball has back class, having run competitively against the likes of High Fly, Roman Ruler, Sun King, and Proud Accolade in 2005. Jim Ryerson trains.
Stakes-placed Cougar Cat has won twice at the distance, although he seems a cut below the top two, having won just four of his 20 lifetime starts for conditioner Ronny Werner. Veterans Callmetony and High Blitz round out the field, and each has won nine times at six furlongs.
High Blitz has two stakes wins at Monmouth, but the 7-year-old has yet to get untracked this season. Callmetony has been facing lesser company, but won three straight races at Belmont Park this year.
Here's the field, in post-position order, with jockeys and weights:
1) High Blitz (C.C. Lopez, 117)
2) Callmetony (Rajiv Maragh, 119)
3) Cougar Cat (Eddie Castro, 121)
4) Smokey Stover (Aaron Gryder, 123)
5) Park Avenue Ball (Joe Bravo, 117)