07/02/2009 11:00PM

Benny the Bull to carry 124 pounds in Smile


MIAMI - Has Benny the Bull lost a step in the one year that has passed since his victory in the 2008 Smile Sprint Handicap? Apparently not, at least in the judgment of Calder's racing secretary, Mike Anifantis, who has assigned Benny the Bull the same 124-pound assignment he carried to a two-length decision over How's Your Halo last summer when he returns to defend that title on Saturday.

Benny the Bull will concede from six to a dozen pounds to a field that will again include How's Your Halo (118) in the Grade 2 Smile, which shares top billing on the Summit of Speed program with the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap. Others expected to face the defending champ are Eaton's Gift (118), Ikigai (118), Yesbyjimminy (118), Americanrevolution (116), and Processor's Turf (112).

Yesbyjimminy, whose 2008 campaign didn't really take off until after the Smile, rose to the top of the local sprint division during the second half of the season when he reeled off five consecutive victories, including a 2 3/4-length decision over It's a Bird in the Grade 3 Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap. Yesbyjimminy enters the Smile off one of his poorest performances, which came in the Ponche Handicap four weeks ago, and figures to be overlooked in the wagering when he lines up against Benny the Bull, the reigning Eclipse Award sprint champion, in the Smile.

"I can attribute his performance in the Ponche to a number of factors," said trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. "He got off to a very awkward start and ended up 12 lengths or so behind the leaders, which is just not him. He's usually up near the pace. And it was his first start in three months and he may have been a little rusty off the layoff. He's doing well now and we'll have no excuse, although you have to be realistic with Benny the Bull in there. If he runs his race, we could all be running for second or third."

Anifantis gave defending female sprint champ Indian Blessing similar respect in releasing his weights for the Princess Rooney, assigning her 123 pounds for the only Grade 1 race on the Calder stakes schedule. Indian Blessing will concede three pounds to Game Face (120) and four apiece to Dubai Majesty (119) and the locally based Marina Ballerina (119). The remainder of the field figures to include Keep the Peace (117), Pious Ashley (116), Jessica Is Back (115), Orinoquia (115), and B R's Girl (113).

Azalea looking tough

The Azalea for 3-year-old fillies appears to be shaping up as the most competitive of the four graded stakes on the Summit of Speed card. A large field is expected, with Cassidys Pride, Donttellmewhattodo, First Passage, Going to the Sun, Kays and Jays, and Underground all expected to start.

Trainer John Sadler said he would make a decision on the status of Evita Argentina after she works this weekend at Hollywood Park. Evita Argentina won the Grade 2 San Vicente at Santa Anita earlier this winter. She was also fourth in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante and ninth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at 2. Evita Argentina has never run on dirt.

"I'm not really concerned about the surface as much as the distance," said Sadler. "She's really a seven-furlong specialist. But sometimes that race gets a lot of speed in the field, which would be to her advantage. She's also a superior off-track horse, and obviously there's always a good chance of catching a wet track down there at this time of year."

Trainer Ronny Werner said he has the Azalea under consideration for Trusty Temper, winner of Philadelphia Park's Jostle Stakes in her last start. Trusty Temper worked four furlongs in 50 seconds at Delaware Park on Friday.

Entries for the July 11 Summit of Speed card will be drawn Monday.

Charlie Papa may get rained out

Charlie Papa will try again to get back on her favorite turf course in Sunday's $55,000 Connie Ann Stakes. The prospects appeared bleak, at best, though, considering all the rain that has pelted the area this week.

Charlie Papa is perfect in two starts over the local course, those victories coming in the 2007 and 2008 editions of the Cool Air Stakes. Trainer Connie Kendall scratched Charlie Papa out of the 2009 Cool Air on May 30 when the race was moved from the grass to a sloppy main track.

Bereba and Rate of Exchange, second and third behind Marina Ballerina in the Cool Air, and Star Operator loom key contenders in the five-furlong Connie Ann no matter the surface.

* You and I Forever, runner-up in the Grade 2 Jerome Handicap at 3, made a triumphant 2009 debut when he rallied to an easy victory in an allowance race Friday. Javier Santiago rode You and I Forever for trainer Marty Wolfson.