Bahamian Squall upset a strong field of sprinters in the $350,000 Smile Sprint Handicap (gr. II) July 6 at Calder Casino & Race Course (VIDEO), earning a potential start in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I).
Donald Dizney's homebred 4-year-old son of Gone West gained his first graded stakes win with Luis Saez aboard for trainer David Fawkes. The Smile Sprint is part of the "Win & You're In" Challenge series for the BC Sprint Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park, guaranteeing the winner of the Summit of Speed event automatic payment of starting fees plus a $10,000 traveling allowance.
Three wide into the stretch, 7-1 shot Bahamian Squall took command past mid-stretch and edged away to a 1 3/4-length victory under some right-handed urging from Saez. Final time was 1:10.21 over a fast track. Eclipse Award-winning Trinniberg , the 2-1 favorite in the field of 12, edged Jackson Bend for second, with second choice Justin Phillip finishing fourth.
Fawkes credited Saez for his ride, saying he wanted to change tactics after Bahamian Squall was caugth on the lead in his past two starts.
"Luis did a great job," said Fawkes. "He took him back a little today and just sat there; he doesn't want to be moved too early.
Fawkes is no stranger to the "Win and You're In" Series, winning the Smile in 2010 with Big Drama, who went on to win the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Sprint.
"It's tough to keep them healthy for a long time," said Fawkes. "We'll look at something at Saratoga (next race). Every horse is different but we'll follow a similar path. Fortunately good horses stay good for a long time."
Bahamian Squall, out of Dizney's Storm Bird mare Midway Squall, was coming off a fourth-place finish in the Ponche Handicap June 8 at Calder. The dark bay or brown colt won for the first time in four starts this year.
Longshots Cajun Breeze and Artefacto set a lively pace in the Smile Spint (:21.41, :44.38) with Trinniberg in a good stalking position in third. Bahamian Squall, splitting horses on the turn, advanced into contention leaving the bend and proved best in the drive.
"I didn't want to go in front because all the time (it is) the same in front, Saez said. "He's better from behind. So today, two or three horses went in front so I sat in third and fourth."
As Trinniberg made his bid for the lead, Saez saw his chance.
"On the turn I moved a little bit when I saw the other horse, the big favorite, come inside," said Saez. "I moved and my horse responded good. He won, thank God."
Trinniberg, in his top performance since winning the Xpressbet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) last fall, was second by a bare nose over multiple grade I winner Jackson Bend as the 123-pound top weight. It was an encouraging performance from Jackson Bend, on the comeback trail for trainer Stanley Gold after being retired to stud last year following a freak training accident at Saratoga Race Course.
Bahamian Squall posted his first win since the Sunshine Stakes at Gulfstream Park Dec. 2. He improved his career record to 4-4-1 in 14 lifetime starts with earnings and doubled his career earnings to $411,980.
He was one of two starters for Fawkes and Disney, who als started 10th-place finisher Apriority.
Carrying 118 pounds, Bahamian Squall paid $16.60, $7.60, and $6.Trinnibeg returned $5 and $4 while completing a $116 exacta. Jackson Bend paid $7 to show.