07/07/2011 3:56PM

Calder: Smile Sprint brings together Cup contenders


MIAMI – Two of the last three winners of Calder’s $350,000 Smile Sprint Handicap, Benny the Bull and Big Drama, went on to earn Eclipse Awards as sprint champions in 2008 and 2010. Orientate accomplished the same feat in 2002. Both Big Drama and Orientate also won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint during their championship seasons.

BREEDERS' CUP CHALLENGE: Racing schedule, replays, and past winners »

Yet despite such an impressive roster of past winners, the six-furlong Smile Sprint has yet to achieve Grade 1 status. The Grade 2 Smile is, however, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race and on Saturday will bring together another impressive field of speedsters, one of whom will earn an automatic berth in this year’s edition of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Among the leading candidates to win the 2011 Smile is Apriority who, like stablemate Big Drama, is trained by David Fawkes. Apriority may start as a slight favorite in the Smile against the likes of 120-pound highweight Noble’s Promise, Giant Ryan (119);, This Ones for Phil (116) and Irrefutable (115). How’s Your Halo (115), runner-up to Benny the Bull in the 2008 Smile, and Royal Tricon (113) complete the lineup.

Apriority will carry 118 pounds while trying to make Fawkes the first trainer to win back to back editions of the Smile as well as the first to capture three renewals of the race. Fawkes also sent out Forty One Carats to set the stakes record of 1:08.95 seconds in 2000.

Apriority has not started since finishing a heartbreaking second, beaten a nose by Aikenite, in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Sprint on Kentucky Derby day. In his previous start, Apriority finished second behind Morning Line in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap.

“He ran three hard races each about 30 days apart and was a little shelled out so we just gave him a break, some needed R and R,” said Fawkes. “He’s training well, I love his post position, and the race sets up good for him. The real speed is to his inside, the home court advantage is a huge factor and if he fires he should run great.”

Noble’s Promise finished fifth, just two lengths behind Apriority, in the Churchill Downs Sprint before returning to win the Grade 3 Aristides at six furlongs four weeks later. Noble’s Promise finished fifth in the 2010 Kentucky Derby and is unbeaten in two starts at six furlongs.

Giant Ryan brings a four-race win streak into the Smile, including an easy 4 3/4-length victory in the Ponche Stakes in his local debut four weeks ago. Giant Ryan earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 105 in the Ponche, joining Irrefutable with the highest last-race Beyer Figure of any member of the field.

Irrefutable has not started since dominating high-level optional claiming and allowance competition at Churchill Downs on May 4 but has worked exceptionally well ever since, both in Kentucky and since returning to Santa Anita last month, where he breezed a bullet five furlongs in 58.60 last Saturday morning for trainer Bob Baffert.

This Ones for Phil returns to his roots, having begun his career at Calder before being purchased privately by his present connections early at 3. This Ones for Phil returned from a 14 month layoff to win Monmouth Park’s Decathlon Stakes in May before finishing a distant second behind Trappe Shot over a muddy track in Belmont’s Grade 2 True North.

SUMMIT OF SPEED: Video previews and Calder past performances »