08/23/2004 12:00AM

Another 'Smarty' emerges


Mary Ellen McKee and her husband, Bob, are big racing fans, having owned racehorses since the late 1960's. Like so many other people, they watched with fervent interest as Smarty Jones made his way through the Triple Crown series this spring.

At the time, the McKees, who are from Phoenix, had a promising unraced 3-year-old filly named Hasta Lavista Baby, who just happens to be by Elusive Quality, also the sire of Smarty Jones. The McKees then decided to change the filly's name, partly because they got so caught up in all the Smarty hype, and partly because whenever the occasion has called for it, Mary Ellen McKee long has used a favorite saying of, "Well, smarty me!"

The Jockey Club registrar allows a horse to be renamed only if it has never raced, so the McKees were able to rechristen the filly Smarty Me. In her first start, on June 15 at Prairie Meadows, Smarty Me did her best to emulate Smarty Jones when she won a six-furlong maiden race by 8 1/4 lengths, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 80 in the process.

In her only subsequent start, finished fourth in a July 17 allowance at Arlington Park in a race that Don Von Hemel said was somewhat disappointing. But Von Hemel, who trains the filly for the McKees, said a better effort is likely Wednesday when Smarty Me faces six other 3-year-old fillies in the feature race at Arlington, a $34,000 allowance at 6 1/2 furlongs.

"She didn't have the best of trips in that last race, and she bled about a 2 on a scale of 5 that day," said Von Hemel. Smarty Me will race on the bleeder medication Lasix for the first time Wednesday, so "I think we'll see a little better performance from her," said Von Hemel.

Smarty Me, with Frank Lovato Jr. to ride, will start from the far outside post in the sixth of nine races. Von Hemel, like many horsemen, believes the outside post is the best post in one-turn races.

"Best you can get," he said. "Hard to get in a lot of trouble out there."

The card also includes a statebred allowance (race 8).

* Purse levels for Wednesday reflect a 3 to 5 percent increase in effect for the remainder of the meet. An upturn in overall business is responsible for the increase, said Frank Gabriel Jr., executive vice president of racing.