Saturday, October 11, 2008
SALES TAX LOOKS TO ROCK THE FIELD IN PEBBLES STAKES
If a trainer’s success were measured in terms of Breeders’ Cup starters, graded stakes winners or Eclipse Awards, you wouldn’t find Hamilton A. Smith ranked alongside the Todd Pletchers or Bill Motts of the racing world. But through the years, the handful of horses he’s brought to New York from Maryland have held their own, and on Monday, Columbus Day, he’s hoping that Sales Tax will do the same in the $100,000-added Pebbles on Belmont Park’s Widener turf course.
The Pebbles, at a mile, drew a contentious field of 12 three-year-old fillies, with two also-eligibles, and Smith will be the first to tell you that Sales Tax is quite the longshot amongst such familiar faces as Live Oak Plantation’s Remarkable Remy, Zayat Stables’ Zee Zee, Delahanty Stable’s Blitzen Too, and Fares Farm’s Mousse Au Chocolat.
“She ran against some very nice fillies last year and ran well,” said Smith, who last year at Belmont saddled Izzy Speaking to a second-place finish behind Ready’s Image in the Tremont and My Mammy to finish third in the Astoria. “She’s been training very well, and she’s coming up there with no excuses going on.”
Bred in Maryland by owner William Backer, the daughter of High Yield, out of the Fit to Fight mare Snit, launched her career last summer at Delaware Park on the dirt, finishing fourth, and broke her maiden in an overnight stakes at Colonial Downs in her first start on the turf. She followed that with a stakes win at Monmouth Park, was second at the Meadowlands in another stakes, and in her most ambitious spot to date was seventh, beaten just five lengths, over a yielding course at Monmouth in the Epitome Breeders’ Cup on October 24.
“That was her most disappointing race all year,” said Smith, currently the second-leading trainer at his base at Laurel Park. “She just didn’t take to the soft turf. After that, Mr. Backer took her to his farm and gave her some time to develop. She’s not a very big filly.”
After finishing sixth in an off-the-turf event in her return to the races in June, Sales Tax rallied to finish a close second to Pebbles starter Fareena at Delaware Park and next was third in an optional claimer at Laurel, both at a mile and one-sixteenth. In her last start on August 30 at Monmouth, she again closed well to gain third going nine furlongs.
“With a little bit of racing luck, things might have been different,” said Smith, who is making his first trip to New York since saddling Bitter Lemon to finish third in an overnight stakes at Aqueduct in December, 2007. “The Pebbles looks like it is a pretty competitive field, and any one of four or five could win it. The one who won up at Saratoga looks like a nice filly.”
That would be Remarkable Remy, whom John Kimmel saddled to victory over Mousse Au Chocolat going a mile over a firm turf course on Aug. 31. The daughter of Hennessy, fourth to Ariege earlier at the Spa, returned to Belmont and shortened up to finish third behind Lost Without You and Meriweather Jessica, another Pebbles starter, here on Sept. 18 in an overnight stakes.
Also vying for favoritism in the Pebbles could be Blitzen Too, who is two-for-three at Belmont Park, including victory as the favorite in an optional claimer on Sept. 17. Trained by Christophe Clement, the daughter of Thunder Gulch has not been off the board in six starts.
The Pletcher-trained Mousse Au Chocolat is still seeking her first American victory, having finished sixth as the favorite in the Grade 2 Lake George in her stateside debut at Saratoga and then second to Remarkable Remy.
Zee Zee, trained by Hall of Famer Mott, was the beaten favorite in her last start here on Sept. 21. The daughter of Exchange Rate, third in the Lake George and the Grade 3 Regret at Keeneland, is 0-for-4 since taking the Edgewood Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 2.
Supplemented to the Pebbles, which will be run as the eighth of 10 races, are the Richard Dutrow-trained Mikeslittlegirl; Saki To Me, from Stanley Hough’s barn; Very Distinctive, who ships in from Philadelphia Park, and Ready for Fortune, who will run as an entry with Time Reveals All. Both are owned by Dennis Narlinger.
Senior Rita Lady and Venetian Causeway are also eligible.
The field for the $100,000-added Pebbles:
PP Horse Jockey Trainer
1 Meriweather Jessica Cornelio Velasquez Linda Rice
2 Blitzen Too Javier Castellano Christophe Clement
3 Fareena L. Garcia Leigh Delacour
4 Mikeslittlegirl Edgar Prado Rick Dutrow
5 Saki To Me Mike Luzzi Stanley Hough
6 Sales Tax Alan Garcia (2) Hamilton Smith
7 Mousse au Chocolat Eibar Coa Todd Pletcher
8 Remarkable Remy Ramon Dominguez John Kimmel
9 Zee Zee John Velazquez Bill Mott
10 Very Distinctive E. Vaz Stacy Machiz
11a Ready for Fortune Norberto Arroyo Jr. Gary Contessa
12a Time Reveals All Pablo Fragoso Joe Orseno
AE13 Senior Rita Lady Rajiv Maragh Rick Violette
AE14 Venetian Causeway Alan Garcia (1) Shug McGaughey
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