06/21/2013 2:48PM

Calder notes: Bellefire likely to bypass Smile for allowance


MIAMI – Trainer Leo Azpurua Jr. will nominate his multiple-stakes-placed Bellefire to next Saturday’s Grade 2 Smile Sprint. But unless Calder management suddenly decides to lengthen the race from six to seven furlongs during the next two weeks, it’s not likely Bellefire will run.

Azpurua did sharpen Bellefire up here Friday morning – just in case – sending him out to work five furlongs from the gate in 1:01.21 under jockey Jesus Rios. Bellefire was second in a set of three out of the gate after the opening quarter-mile before really getting into gear, completing his final three furlongs around the clubhouse turn and into the backstretch in 36 and change.

“I was delighted with the way he worked and with the way he came back from the work,” Azpurua said. “Jesus said when he got to the wire after the first quarter-mile he was ready to explode. It just takes this horse a little while to get going, both in his works and when he runs.”

Bellefire has not started since finishing fifth in the 6 1/2-furlong Sir Shackleton at Gulfstream Park on March 30. He has run only four times since capturing his three-other-than allowance condition going seven furlongs at Calder in November.

“If the Smile was at seven furlongs, I wouldn’t think twice about running him,” Azpurua said. “But going six, I don’t think he’d have enough real estate. I’ll nominate him for the Smile just to take a look – for $350,000 you have to do that – but there’s a money allowance coming up on the 29th and I’m thinking about putting him there instead.”

Manicero, a former pupil of Azpurua’s, also was on the work tab Friday, breezing five-eighths in 1:00.89 from the half-mile pole out beyond the wire before galloping out six furlongs in 1:15.32 for trainer Augustin Bezara. Manicero has not started since finishing second in the Sunshine State Stakes at Gulfstream Park in December 2011. Manicero was formerly owned by Azpurua’s father, Leo Sr., and breeder Roberto Sanson, who now owns 100 percent of the homebred.

“I haven’t had Manicero since April of last year,” Azpurua said. “He was one of my favorite horses but always had very sensitive feet, and I lost a lot of hair and had a lot of sleepless nights when I trained him trying to figure out how to get the horse right.”

The versatile Manicero, who won seven stakes with Azpurua, has had six recorded works since April 12 but just one over the last five weeks.

Gulfstream races Tuesday

Gulfstream Park’s first-ever summer racing program, to be run Tuesday, will consist of eight races, all to be decided over the main track. The card is officially the final day of the 2012-13 winter meet. The 2013 summer-fall session opens July 1.

The first stakes race of the summer meet, the $100,000 Armed Forces, closed with 32 nominations, including horses from the barns of trainers Todd Pletcher, Dale Romans, and John Shirreffs. The Armed Forces is scheduled to be run at 1 1/16 miles on the turf on July 4.

Reporting Star rewards gamble

Trainer Kathleen O’Connell knew going in that Reporting Star was a little overmatched going up against the likes of Verrazano and Itsmyluckyday last Sunday in Monmouth Park’s Grade 3 Pegasus. But with few others options at the time, she decided to make Reporting Star part of the five-horse field and was rewarded in the end when the son of Circular Quay finished second behind the odds-on Verrazano.

Reporting Star, who is owned by O’Connell’s principal client, Gil Campbell, shipped to New Jersey following his third-place finish behind the rapidly improved Backseat Memories in the grassy Mambo Meister overnight stakes here May 12. Reporting Star finished third earlier this winter, also on the turf, to the multiple graded stakes winner Rydilluc in Gulfstream’s Grade 3 Palm Beach.

“I still think he’s way better on turf than dirt, so I shipped him up north because staying in south Florida for the summer really isn’t the best idea with a grass horse,” O’Connell said. “The only reason I went into the Pegasus is because I saw it was coming up a short field, and when you have the opportunity to walk out of your barn over to the paddock to run in a Grade 3 stakes in a five-horse field, sometimes you have to take a shot.”