Smart Surprise outlasts Saskawea in the Bessarabian Stakes.

Smart Surprise outlasts Saskawea in the Bessarabian Stakes.

Michael Burns

Game Stakes Debut Win for Smart Surprise

John Sikura's 4-year-old filly outfights Saskawea for Bessarabian Stakes win.

Smart Surprise made her stakes debut a winning one, outfighting Saskawea in the final furlong to win the $132,327 Bessarabian Stakes by a half-length Nov. 23 at Woodbine.

Trained by Josie Carroll for owner John Sikura, Smart Surprise was making her 14th start. She completed the seven-furlong event for fillies and mares in a strong time of 1:22.14 over the Polytrack surface.

Robert Landry guided the 4-year-old daughter of Smart Strike--Weekend Storm, by Storm Bird, to victory in a 6-1 upset. Weekend Storm is a full sister to Summer Squall and a half-sister to A.P. Indy.

Racing mid-pack for the first half-mile, Smart Surprise loomed into contention from between horses leaving the turn. She challenged Saskawea, who got the lead in the stretch under Jono Jones, and won in a full drive. Arden Belle, with Emile Ramsammy aboard, finished four lengths further behind in third. Pleasant Review and 5-2 favorite Lucas Street followed in the 10-horse field.

"I give credit to Josie. She did a great job with this filly," said Landry, who rode Smart Surprise for the first time. "I got lucky and the rail opened up. She fought a game race. She's got a lot of talent."

Marina Ballerina set the pace, carving quarter-mile fractions of :22.82 and :45.07 to lead into upper stretch, where she was overtaken by Saskawea.

It took Smart Surprise 11 starts to break her maiden, but the chestnut filly has now three of her past four outings since moving to Woodbine's synthetic surface for Carroll this summer. Smart Surprise was coming off a 4 3/4-length win over an allowance field going 1 1/16 miles Oct. 25. Never out of the money, she now sports a record of 3-7-4 and earnings of $203,294. The Bessarabian victory was worth $132,327.

Carroll said she was not concerned about the cut-back in distance.

"I knew she had enough tactical speed," said Carroll. "I thought it might suit her as well, if not better. She's a nice filly to be around. I'm so fortunate. Mr. Sikura sent me some wonderful horses."

Bred in Kentucky by W.S. Farish and Kilroy Thoroughbred Partnership, Smart Surprise was a $235,000 purchase at the 2005 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Sent off as the fifth choice, Smart Surprise paid $15.20, $6.70, and $5.40, combining with Saskawea ($6, $3.30) for a $98.60 exacta. Arden Belle ($4.60) completed a $2 trifecta worth $687.

Executive Flight scratched.