(from Calder Race Course)
At this time last year at Calder Race Course, trainer Steve Standridge had Rustlewood Farm’s Florida homebred Mach Ride poised to score the biggest victory of his career in the $500,000 Smile Sprint Handicap (gr. II) on the ‘Summit of Speed’ day program, but will not be able to defend his title this year.
“His career is on hold right now,” said Standridge June 21. “He’s got problems with his feet, but is in light training at the farm (Rustlewood) in Ocala. At this time, there is no way of predicting if he’ll be able to come back, but we’re optimistic.”A 5-year-old horse by Pentelicus, Mach Ride finished second in the $300,000 Carry Back Stakes (gr. II) behind Too Much Bling on ‘Summit’ day in 2005, and was last seen in action finishing a game third behind current division leader Benny the Bull in the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint at Gulfstream Park Jan. 26 after a rough start.
IEAH Stable and partners’ 5-year-old Benny the Bull is expected for the $400,000 Smile Sprint this year, according to an announcement late this week from managing syndicate partner Michael Iavarone, who also outlined plans for stable stars Big Brown and Kip Deville. The event is scheduled for July 12.
A Florida-bred by Lucky Lionel, Benny the Bull scored his fourth consecutive victory winning the True North Handicap (gr. II) by a neck on Belmont Day, June 7, before Big Brown’s shocking defeat in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). Trained by Rick Dutrow, Benny the Bull was making his first start since capturing the $2 million Golden Shaheen Stakes (UAE-I) in Dubai in late March.
A leading West Coast sprinter reportedly being pointed for the Smile Sprint is Frankfurt Stables and Eugene Tenbrink’s 7-year-old gelding Bonfante, sharp winner of the Oakland Stakes at Golden Gate Fields last out June 14 for Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally. The California-bred son of Fruition scored by 1 1/2 lengths over Wind River Stable and trainer Brian Koriner’s 4-year-old Black Seventeen.
Black Seventeen was making his first start since capturing the Carry Back on ‘Summit’ day last year when he defeated Teuflesberg by a length going wire-to-wire. A Florida-bred chestnut by Is It True, Black Seventeen could return to Calder for the Smile Sprint.
Another veteran of the 2007 ‘Summit’ program on the comeback trail is Walter Downey’s 5-year-old gelding Fabulous Strike, who was entered in the June 21 Vincent Moscarelli Memorial Stakes at Delaware Park, his first start since a sensational performance winning the Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park on Sept. 3.
Fabulous Strike is a Pennsylvania homebred by Smart Strike trained by Todd Beattie, based at Penn National. He came into the Smile Sprint last year as the second choice to California star Smokey Stover, but neither favorite had a very good day with ‘Smokey’ a well-beaten third for trainer Greg Gilchrist and Fabulous Strike, apparently affected by the heat, finishing fifth as Mach Ride scored by two lengths for the Calder home-trained team.
Any shippers for the Smile Sprint this year will find a formidable Calder-based rival with Live Oak Plantation’s 4-year-old homebred gelding Rockerfeller in top form for trainer Marty Wolfson after two very impressive victories over the track and six-furlong distance at the meet. The son of Maria's Monwon an allowance by six lengths May 25 and the Ponche Handicap by seven lengths.
Nominations to the ‘Big Four’ graded stakes worth a total of $1.3 million on the ‘Summit of Speed’ program this year close June 28.