Smokey Fire wore down stablemate Jungle Wave and pacesetter Fatal Bullet in the long Woodbine stretch to give trainer Sid Attard the first two finishers in the $213,628 Play the King Stakes (Can-IIT) Aug. 29 (VIDEO) .
The first three finishers were separated by two necks following an all-out stretch drive in the seven-furlong test. Smokey Fire, back on a turf course where he had a win and three seconds in four tries last year, challenged defending Play the King winner Jungle Wave, and 2008 Canadian champion Fatal Bullet in upper stretch. But the front-runners refused to yield until the final couple of strides.
The homebred Smokey Fire, ridden for the first time by Jono Jones for owner Mel Lawson's Jim Dandy Stable, prevailed in a solid time of 1:20.83 over firm going.
Attard put Smokey Fire back on the grass for the first time in more than a year after the 5-year-old Smoke Glacken gelding put in a dismal effort on the dirt in Saratoga's Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. I) Aug. 8, fading to finish last of seven in the six-furlong event.
In search of his first win in more than 13 months, Fatal Bullet made just the second start on turf in his career for trainer Reade Baker. The 2008 Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) runner-up broke in stride for Eurico Da Silva from post 2 and quickly took the lead. Jones put Smokey Fire into a good spot on the outside in the early going as Fatal Bullet led the pressing Jungle Wave through quarter-mile fractions of :23.02 and :45.88.
Jungle Wave, ridden by Patrick Husbands, went for an early assault rounding the turn to challenge Fatal Bullet, who led by a half-length into the stretch. Smokey Fire, still racing in third, angled out in upper stretch to put in his run, setting up the big finish.
“Absolutely, I was happy to see Patrick put the pressure on Fatal Bullet or I would have had to do it,” said Jones. “Sid told me to stalk with this horse so I didn’t want to disobey him. If Patrick hadn’t done it, we would have been in trouble, I think. It worked out perfect for me after that. This horse knows where the wire is. He was determined to win.”
Porter's Gate, the longest shot in the field, finished seven lengths back in fourth, followed by 5-2 favorite Signature Red, Southdale, and Field Commission .
Signature Red, also trained by Attard, carried top weight of 123 pounds. He raced evenly throughout for Chantal Sutherland but failed to menace.
Smokey Fire has won two of three starts in 2010, taking Woodbine's Bold Venture Stakes on Polytrack to begin his campaign July 17. The gray/roan also won the Kennedy Road Stakes (Can-III) over the Woodbine main track in his final start of 2009 last November. His overall record is now 6-3-1 in 11 starts with earnings of $497,217. The Play the King victory was worth $136,843.
Ontario-bred Smokey Fire is out of Destroy, by Housebuster. He did not race at 2 or 3.
The second choice in the evenly-bet field carried 119 pounds and paid $8.50, $5.10, and $3.30 while topping a $50 exacta. Jungle Wave, looking for his first win since he captured last year's Play The King as the favorite, returned $4.90 and $3.60. Fatal Bullet was $6 to show.