Well Balanced Field In Smile Sprint Handicap

Smile Sprint Handicap (BC) (Grade 3)- $250.000 Purse
GP- For Three Year Olds and Upward
Six Furlongs on the Dirt
July 1, 2017

A field of ten has made it to GP this weekend, and they all have BC Sprint dreams right now as valuable points for that race are on the line in the 13th running of the Smile Sprint Handicap, a six furlong event. The early history of this race was pretty interesting as two horses, Ljosalfar and Alpha Ultimo each won two of the first four races, but impressively Ljosalfar won his in 2005 and 2008, with Alpha Ultimo taking the two in between. Ljosalfar ran second in 2007, though was last in 2006. Likewise, Alpha Ultimo was second in 2008. That longstanding rivalry for one stake’s history is seen when horses like Sir Tom and Seven Years keep meeting, but for the most part, is a thing of the past. Purses were higher then, as well, going for $500.000 at that time, with a Grade 2 designation, and run at CRC. 2015 was the first year that the race was held at GP, but it also saw a purse decrease to the $250.000. 2017 marks the first year that the race will be a Grade 3, and not a Grade 2. That hasn’t stopped us from getting a big field, so let’s look at our runners!

#1- Double C (Team 7 Illusions, ridden by D R Flores)- On the rail, this Chief Charley gelding had a strong season last year running in the CA-bred circuit, winning four of nine races in 2016. This year, the trainer has looked to elevate his career into the graded level, but he has not yet gotten the results he was hoping for. An allowance win in February is still his only win of 2017, though he is coming off a good result in a CA-bred stake. This will be his second race in three weeks, but that looks to be just what Double C likes. He seems to be one that wants to keep going out there. Another to like about him is that he is truly outstanding in the morning. The potential is there, and maybe this will be his day.

#2- Dang (John Henry, ridden by J L Ortiz)- Like Double C, this gelding also spent much of 2016 competing in statebreds, and did well for prior trainer Australia Wide. In early December, John Henry paid a great price for his one, only $50.000 in private sales, and took him out of running in NY-breds pretty much exclusively. After a couple of decent starts, they would visit the winners circle at PRX after an allowance, and it would be off to the Grade 3 MD Sprint Series Stakes. It was his first ever graded stake, and it ended up with him getting the win, in what looks to have been his most complete effort to date. It does make him one of the high weights here, though. I like the form he comes into this race with.

#3- Phooeys Gold (Scarletandgraystable, ridden by Ju A Garcia)- Spent his early career running on the free track, and going longer. He would pass through a couple barns before arriving with his current trainer about a year ago for just $8.010 in the auction. That purchase has paid off pretty well, as Phooeys Gold picked up a handful of allowance wins at decent tracks. He’s never run in any kind of stake leading up to this, but you could also say it’s the same kind of jump that Dang made last month into the MD Sprint Series when he won. It’ll be interesting to see where he stacks up, and his form does look like this time to make this jump. Possible high risk, high reward horse if the odds are high.

#4- King of Sparta (Angelos Stables, ridden by J Velazquez)- This four year old gelding by Rene spent his early days running in claimers once he broke his maiden, and saw himself pass through a couple of big name barns in the process. With Angelos, he left the claiming scene, and towards the end of the 2016, proved himself nicely in allowances. In January, he ran in a CA-bred stake, the $150.000 CA Cup Sprint, and picked up the victory, beating Double C in the process. Since then, he’s moved up a notch to Grade 3 races, and has two third place close calls where he was within a length of victory. Eventually, he’s going to get that big win, and don’t be surprised if it happens here.

#5- Air Show (Our Athletes, ridden by V Espinoza)- After a decent juvenile season which saw him show up as entry in a couple of early TC prep races in 2016, Air Show was sold from Our Athletes to Australia Wide for $250.000. With that one, Air Show was inconsistent, but showed a liking to go back to sprinting. Our Athletes liked what he saw, and bought him back for $100.000 in November. Air Show has continued to show flashes of potential, but also has races where he just seems to like being part of the pack. He was gelded a couple races ago, and it remains to be seen how much of an impact that will have.

#6- Winter Is Coming (D J C Racing Stables, ridden by C J McMahon)- Don’t let his name have you thinking this is the wrong time of year to be betting on him. After all, two of his three wins were during the summer time, but they are also a long time ago. Winter Is Coming ran well for prior trainer Night Mare Racing, but after being purchased by D J C for $250.000 with winter on the horizon last year, the three year old was put into races going longer, and the results have not been there, except for a win on about the first day of spring this year. This will be the first time that D J C Racing Stables has him sprint, and he could be capable of freezing the competition.

#7- On High Alert (Mb Stables, ridden by J Talamo)- The Commanding colt has won six of 16 career races, and has done a good job getting in the money, doing so in thirteen of them. He was brought along patiently by his trainer, and it was nearly a year to the day that the picked his first graded win, taking the Carry Back (Grade 3), topping Air Show in the process. Unfortunately, he did not follow that up well, and spent the rest of the year in optional claimers, though at the high level. He recently returned to graded competition, and comes off a third place run in the same MD Sprint Handicap that was won by Dang on PRK weekend. In that, he carried six more pounds then he will here.

#8- Sindaco di Firenze (Night Rider Stables, ridden by R Maragh)- No one in this field has earned more then this five year old gelding, who’s career earnings sit at just over $927.000. One race, however, plays a big part of that. Last fall, he ran second in the BC Sprint, missing be able to call himself a BC Champion by a neck. During the summer and into the fall last year was the highlight of his career, though if you look back at his three year old season, you will see that he does tend to show up when they matter the most. You have to like that, but does this race fit that category, necessarily? He has two thirds this year, and is the type of horse to include in any trifecta wagers, but as far as winning, I would like to see him do that more often.

#9- Silver Setbus (Ekli Stable, ridden by D Moran)- Speaking of winning, that’s something that you do not have to worry about with Silver Setbus, who has done so in half of his 18 career starts. He has also been in the money in 15 of those races. That’s the good news! Several of those victories come at low level tracks to skew the percentages, but even when you look at when the stakes increased, he is still getting it done. In December, he was able to call himself a graded winner, taking the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl right here. All seemed great, but then his next five races were against allowance company. His last race was a return to the graded level, and he won the Grade 3 Winning Colors. This is a great horse who knows how to be there at the end.

#10- Assvolts (Namor Farms, ridden by J J Hernandez)- As late as January of this year, Assvolts was running a low a cheap $12.500 claimer, where Namor Farms was able to pick him up. Since then, he has four starts, and he was able to get a win in the ungraded $100.000 Walker at CD. It seems as though ever since the adds were removed that he had previously, Assvolts has picked up from being a low 90 SRF horse to an upper 90 horse, and that can make all of the difference in this game. He’s never faced a field like this, but as is the case with a couple others in the same situation, now is the time to try.

Prediction: 2-8-9-6

— NS

Categories: Grade III, STAKES ARTICLES

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