“His career is on hold right now,” said Standridge Saturday morning. “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.”
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.
A Florida-bred by Lucky Lionel, Benny the Bull scored his fourth consecutive victory winning the True North Handicap (G2) by a neck on Belmont Day, June 7, before Big Brown’s shocking defeat in the Belmont Stakes (G1). Trained by Rick Dutrow, Benny the Bull was making his first start since capturing the $2 million Golden Shaheen Stakes (G1) 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 on June 14 for Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally. The California-bred son of Fruition scored by 1 ½ 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 is entered in today’s $75,000 Vincent Moscarelli Memorial Stakes at Delaware Park, his first start since a sensational performance winning the Vosburgh Stakes (G1) 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 Mon won an allowance by six lengths on May 25 and the Ponche Handicap last Saturday by seven lengths.
Other Calder-based older horses likely to line up for the Smile Sprint include owner-trainer Brian Prichard’s 5-year-old How’s Your Halo, fourth in the race last year and second to Rockerfeller in the Ponche; and Chester Bishop’s 6-year-old Blue Pepsi Lodge and Richard Averill’s 8-year-old gelding Paradise Dancer.
Blue Pepsi Lodge, an older half-brother to Mach Ride, and Paradise Dancer are conditioned by leading Calder trainer Kirk Ziadie and finished third and fourth, respectively, behind Rockerfeller in the Ponche. Paradise Dancer finished second to Mach Ride in the Smile Sprint last summer to produce a one-two Calder-trained finish.
Nominations to the ‘Big Four’ Graded stakes worth a total of $1.3 million on the ‘Summit of Speed’ program this year close next Saturday (June 28).