10/24/2008 12:00AM

Bejarano to ride Smooth Air in Classic

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Rafael Bejarano, currently the leading rider during the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita, will replace Manoel Cruz aboard Smooth Air in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.

"This was strictly the owner's call," said Bennie Stutts Jr., who trains Smooth Air for Brian Burns’s Mount Joy Stables. "I’m sorry we won’t have Manny aboard since he knows the horse well. But we’re replacing him with the leading jockey at Santa Anita, one who knows that track very well, and I expect he’ll give our horse a great ride."

Cruz, who like Stutts is based at Calder Race Course in south Florida, has ridden Smooth Air in each of his 11 previous starts, including to victories in the Grade 2 Hutcheson and Ohio Derby and an 11th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby earlier this year.