04/11/2008 12:00AM

Aiming to become king of turf sprinters

Email
Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Breeders' Cup aspirant Smart Enough begins his 2008 season in Sunday's Grade 3 Shakertown.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - In two full seasons on the racetrack, Smart Enough has established himself as arguably one of the nation's elite turf sprinters. This year, he'll be given the opportunity to settle that argument.

Turf sprinters, for the first time, will have a Breeders' Cup championship race all their own. That race at Santa Anita in October is the long-range goal for Smart Enough, whose 2008 campaign is scheduled to begin on Sunday in the Grade 3, $125,000 Shakertown Stakes here at Keeneland.

"I would certainly hope to be in the Breeders' Cup," Smart Enough's trainer, John R.S. Fisher, said Friday morning from the Fair Hill training center in Maryland, where he is based. "That would be the plan. He's certainly the best horse I've ever trained."

Smart Enough, 5, has won 10 of 15 starts, all on turf, and has finished out of the money just once, when he lost a shoe during a race at Monmouth. He has won 8 of 10 sprints at distances ranging from five to six furlongs. The Shakertown, at 5 1/2 furlongs, is right in his wheelhouse.

As he has done the past two years, Fisher gave Smart Enough a vacation over the winter after racing him in the five-furlong Cherokee Run Stakes at Churchill Downs in November. He pointed him to a return when the weather improved, but recent wet weather at Keeneland gave Fisher some concern.

"I'm going to run if the race is on grass, but if it's taken off the grass, he won't run," Fisher said. "He trains on a synthetic surface, but I don't want to begin the season running him for the first time on Polytrack."

Smart Enough landed post 2 in the Shakertown, which drew 13 entrants, including one also-eligible.

Emirates to Dubai, who starts from the rail, is moving up in class after beating a second-level allowance field at Gulfstream, but he won in a manner suggesting he can handle this class hike. Garrett Gomez, who rode him last time, is back aboard Sunday.

The Nth Degree won this race last year at odds of 12-1, but has finished out of the money in four starts since.

Both Zetetic and Fort Prado figure to come flying late. Atticus Kristy and Sgt. Bert are also terrific turf sprinters who figure right there with their best.

If enough rain comes to force the Shakertown to the main track, Probation Ready will have an excellent chance. He was third to Oaklawn stakes stars Semaphore Man and Junior College in the King Cotton two starts back.