Saturday, April 04, 2009

Barn Notes 4-4-2009

Gulfstream Park Handicap Winner Smooth Air Texas-Bound

Mount Joy Stable’s 4-year-old Florida homebred Smooth Air, winner of the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) last out on Mar. 14, will likely make his next start in the $300,000 Texas Mile (G3) at Lone Star Park on Apr. 25, according to trainer Ben Stutts Jr.

“We considered the race at Charles Town (Classic, 1 1/8 miles on Apr. 18), which (as Smooth air is a Grade 2 winner) would have been worth $750,000 if he won it,” said Stutts Saturday morning, “but with all things considered and the major goals ahead, we decided on the Texas race at one mile around two turns.

“Tentative plans would have him on a Fed Ex flight the Tuesday before the race and a return the following Tuesday. The major goal for him this season is to win a Grade 1 and after the Lone Star race we’ll decide between running him in the Met Mile or the Churchill race, both Grade 1s. We’ll keep him on a Sunday work schedule”

The $600,000 Metropolitan Handicap (G1) will be run at Belmont Park on May 25 at one mile and the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) will be run at Churchill Downs on June 13 going 1 1/8 miles.

A son of Smooth Jazz, Smooth Air won the Gulfstream Park Handicap by 1 ¼ lengths over Finallymadeit, favorite for Saturday’s $100,000 Skip Away Stakes (G3). Smooth Air won the Hutcheson Stakes (G2) here early last year and finished second to Big Brown in the Florida Derby (G1) in two previous starts over the main track at Gulfstream.

Lezcano Wins Four Friday to Take Lead in Gulfstream Standings

Jockey Jose Lezcano rode four winners Friday at Gulfstream Park, the first on a stewards’ disqualification, to break out of a tie for the lead in the standings with Kent Desormeaux (he now leads 52-48) and trainer Ken McPeek sent out a winner to extend his lead over Todd Pletcher to 29-26.

Lezcano is a heavy favorite to win his first title here as Desormeaux and the three others in the top five in the rider standings have moved on to ride at Keeneland and/or Aqueduct. John R. Velazquez left with 47 victories in third, followed by Julien Leparoux fourth with 45 and Alan Garcia fifth at 41.

McPeek and Pletcher began the week tied in the standings until McPeek won two races on Thursday and another Friday. McPeek is bidding for his first Gulfstream title while Pletcher has taken home the championship here the last five years. Both have left divisions to compete through the final weeks of the session until closing on Thurs., Apr. 23.

Ward Juveniles Come Out Running at Gulfstream & Keeneland

Trainer Wesley Ward has a well-established reputation for developing fast 2-year-olds over the years, and his first juveniles unveiled this week have likely exceeded any possible expectations with the stable winning the first two races carded here and the first on opening day at Keeneland Friday.

Wednesday’s fourth race at Gulfstream was the first of the meet and Girl Bar and Miss Lulu Belle finished one-two for Ward going 2½ furlongs. Ward also owns both fillies and bred the winner as well. Girl Bar is by Atticus and Miss Lulu Belle is a daughter of Yankee Gentleman and was a $6,000 Saratoga yearling purchase.

Things continued to go well for the stable Friday with Ward at Keeneland for opening day. He saddled a filly, Jealous Again, for a runaway victory in the second race, defeating colts. Jealous Again is a daughter of Trippi purchased for $30,000 at the OBS August yearling sales and is owned by Ward, Robert Abrams and Mitch Dutko.

Not more than a few minutes later at Gulfstream, Ray Saintz’ colt Convoy Ahead and Ron Brewer’s gelding Yogaroo finished one-two in the second race at Gulfsteam for Ward. Convoy Ahead was a $15,000 OBS August yearling purchase by Wildcat Heir and Ward bred Yogaroo, a son of Bring the Heat.

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