Benny the Bull is among the best known nominees for the four Graded stakes worth a total of $1.3 million to be run on Calder’s popular ‘Summit’ program, which also includes the $400,000 Princess Rooney Handicap (G1), $250,000 Carry Back Stakes (G2) and $250,000 Azalea Stakes (G3) in addition to the Smile Sprint, all to be run at six furlongs.
Benny the Bull emerged as a major player in the sprint division late last year for trainer Rick Dutrow, finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Monmouth Park and capturing the DeFrancis Memorial (G1) at Laurel Park in late November. The Florida-bred son of Lucky Lionel has won all three of his starts this year, including the Golden Shaheen Stakes (G1) in Dubai in March and the True North Handicap (G2) last out at Belmont Park on June 7.
While Benny the Bull is the current division leader bidding for an Eclipse Award, another Smile Sprint nominee already has won that honor. Zabeel Racing International’s 6-year-old gelding Thor’s Echo was Eclipse champion in 2006 after posting victories in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs and the DeFrancis for trainer Doug O’Neill and previous owners.
A California-bred by Swiss Yodeler, Thor’s Echo finished a game second in the Golden Shaheen early in 2006 during his Eclipse championship campaign, but showed little in his only two starts of 2007 in Dubai. He was returned to training with O’Neill this year and finished a strong fourth in the True North behind Benny the Bull on Belmont Day, beaten less than two lengths for it all, in his first start in more than 14 months.
Also notable among the Smile Sprint prospects are Frankfurt Stables and partners’ 7-year-old gelding Bonfante, Maggi Moss’ 5-year-old gelding Indian Chant and Live Oak Plantation’s 4-year-old gelding Rockerfeller. Bonfante captured the Oakland Stakes at Golden Gate Fields last out on June 14 for trainer Ron McAnally.
Indian Chant won his last two starts at Churchill Downs for trainer Tom Amoss, most recently the Aristides Stakes (G3) on May 31; and Rockerfeller is a dangerous Calder home team threat for trainer Marty Wolfson after two very impressive victories over the track and distance, most recently the Ponche Handicap on June 14 by seven lengths.
Dream Rush & Miraculous Miss Lead Princess Rooney Roster
Minor Stable’s 4-year-old filly Dream Rush was a two-time Grade 1 winner last year for trainer Rick Violette, Jr. when owned by West Point Thoroughbreds and is expected to bid for another top level victory in the Princess Rooney as she makes her second start this year.
The daughter of Wild Rush won the Prioress Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park in early July and the Test Stakes (G1) at Saratoga in August before finishing fifth as the second choice in the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Monmouth Park after setting the pace to deep stretch on the ‘sloppy’ track. In her lone start since then, Dream Rush finished a game second in the Vagrancy Handicap (G2) at Belmont on May 25 in her only start this year.
Puglisi Stables and trainer Steve Klesaris’ 5-year-old mare Miraculous Miss finished a game second in the Filly & Mare Sprint at Monmouth behind Maryfield, who earned an Eclipse Award for the division. Miraculous Miss had finished fifth in the Princess Rooney on ‘Summit’ day last year behind River’s Prayer with Maryfield fourth.
Trainer Rick Dutrow could have a strong contender for the Princess Rooney with Lansdon Robbins III’s 4-year-old filly Looky Yonder, winner of the Vagrancy by a length over Dream Rush, who held a four-length lead at the eighth pole. A daughter of Johannesburg, Looky Yonder rallied from well off the pace in that race after a wire-to-wire allowance victory on a ‘sloppy’ Belmont track in her previous start.
Zayat Trio & Lantana Mob Named for Carry Back
The powerful Zayat Stable has nominated three 3-year-olds for the Carry Back Stakes with Massive Drama and Eaton’s Gift trained by Dale Romans and J Be K conditioned by Steve Asmussen. Massive Drama or Eaton’s Gift appear the most likely to represent the stable with J Be K entered in the Jersey Shore Stakes (G3) on Friday at Monmouth Park.
Asmussen also trains Vinery Stable’s Lantana Mob, winner of the Bachelor Stakes at Oaklawn Park in early April and the Hirsch Jacobs Stakes (G3) at Pimlico on Preakness Day last out on May 17. The son of Posse has won five of nine starts, including the Sapling Stakes (G3) as a 2-year-old at Monmouth.
Long Distance Challenges Expected for Azalea
Two highly accomplished 3-year-old fillies expected to invade Calder for the Azalea Stakes will make long journeys to get to South Florida with David and Jill Heerensperger’s Indyanne due from trainer Greg Gilchrist’s Golden Gate Fields headquarters near San Francisco and Bahadur Cheema’s Dancing Allstar arriving from Hastings Park near Vancouver, British Columbia.
Indyanne is a Kentucky-bred daughter of Indian Charlie that has won all three of her starts by big margins without being tested. The roan/gray filly won her debut at Bay Meadows as a 2-year-old last August by 10 lengths, followed by a six-length score in the Bay Meadows Debutante there in September. In her only start this year, Indyanne won a Golden Gate allowance by seven lengths on June 6.
Dancing Allstar is an intriguing prospect as a winner of eight of 10 starts with two seconds racing across Canada for trainer Terry Jordon. Bred in British Columbia, the daughter of Millenium Allstar won her debut at Hastings last year before shipping east to Toronto for a three-race campaign that included an easy score over fillies in the My Dear Stakes and a narrow loss against colts in the Colin Stakes when second by a nose to Bear Holiday.
Dancing Allstar is on a six-race win streak currently, including her season debut at Stampede Park and the last two at Hastings to run her bankroll to nearly $400,000. She has already been shipped across Canada to Woodbine and will make a six-hour van ride next week to New York where she is expected to board a Tex Sutton Forwarding charter flight with other horse bound for ‘Summit’ day engagements.