05/23/2002 11:00PM

Alittlebitgrumpy quite a bit ahead of the game


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The first 2-year-old stakes for fillies is more than seven weeks away, but trainer Dana Smith has the July 13 date of the Timber Music Stakes highlighted on her calendar. Smith is the trainer of Alittlebitgrumpy, who won a maiden special weight race in 39.99 seconds Wednesday evening.

That clocking is the fastest of the year on the 3 1/2-furlong Nursery Course and considering the track, rated good, was close to being a second slower than normal, the feat was even more impressive. What also makes Alittlebitgrumpy's race intriguing is the way she spotted Dancewithavixen a couple of lengths at the break and still managed to beat her by a half-length. The third-place horse in the race finished 11 lengths farther back.

Smith has had some success with babies in the past. She won the Ascot Graduation Breeders' Cup with Mylittlevic in 1998 and last year she sent Excited at Last to win the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society Sales Stakes. She thinks that Alittlebitgrumpy compares favorably to them.

"She's absolutely the most professional filly I've ever had," Smith said. "She's by Alybro, who was a classic distance runner, and she's out of a Travelling Victor mare, so she also should get better when they stretch out."

Smith was a bit surprised that Alittlebitgrumpy won her first start.

"She's not that fast out of the gate, but she doesn't know the meaning of the word quit," Smith said. "I knew that Tom's filly [Tom Longstaff's Dancewithavixen] was a pretty good one, and already had a race, so I didn't think we were going to beat her."

Smith quit galloping her own horses a few years ago but made the decision to gallop Alittlebitgrumpy herself. "She's such a nice filly and she's really easy to gallop," Smith said. "But when she got close to running, I started washing out so I've been letting Charlene Miller gallop her for a few days."

Smith was happy to report that Alittlebitgrumpy came back in excellent condition and will take some time off before resuming training.

Serna on a roll

Jockey Fernando Serna was aboard for Alittlebitgrumpy's win and has won two of the last three stakes at the meet. He brought Inish Glora from well back to win the Strawberry Morn Stakes on May 11, and took Regal Heir right to the front to win the Supernaturel Stakes last Saturday.

Serna first arrived at Hastings from Mexico in 1998 and is having his best year. He has won 10 races and has an excellent win percentage of 20.8. Serna hopes it can continue and, if he doesn't get injured, it probably will. Unfortunately he hasn't made it through an entire meet at Hastings without a mishap, but he is still enthusiastic about riding here.

"This has become my home," he said. "I like riding here and love the area. It's great that I'm starting to get some nice horses to ride so I can prove to everybody what I can do."

Serna was impressed with Alittlebitgrumpy. "She's a nice filly and I don't think that she needs to be in front in order to win," he said. "She doesn't break that sharp but she has enough ability that if she gets left a jump or two, she can make it up pretty quickly."

One thing Serna can look forward to is a trip to Woodbine if Inish Glora, who is an Ontario-bred, goes back there in the fall.

"I'll take Fernando with me if we go," said Inish Glora's trainer, Kathy Bremner. "He rides her perfectly and if he hadn't gotten injured last year he would have ridden her when she went back there last year."

Serna will be at Emerald Downs Sunday to ride Grooms Derby in the Washington State Legislator's Stakes. Dave Wilson and Chris Loseth will also ride in the race. Wilson is on Queenofmynights and Loseth will be aboard last year's $175,000 Ballerina Breeders' Cup winner Grey Tobe Free, who is making her first start this year for trainer Robbie Anderson.