07/07/2004 11:00PM

Champali becomes Smile favorite by default


MIAMI - By Saturday, the complexion of the $500,000 Smile Sprint Handicap will have changed dramatically from the time the race was drawn five days earlier. Alke and Hombre Rapido, among the 13 original entries for the co-feature on the $1.75 million Summit of Speed program, will both be scratched, eliminating the likely favorite, Alke, who along with Hombre Rapido figured to contest the early pace. Their defections will leave Champali as not only the horse to beat but perhaps the one to catch in the six-furlong Smile.

Champali and Valid Video, the only Grade 1 winner in the lineup, will share high weight of 117 pounds. Clock Stopper, My Cousin Matt, Super Fuse, and Aloha Bold have also shipped in for the race, and the local contingent includes Built Up, Twilight Road, Love That Moon, Super Frolic, and Gold Dollar.

Champali figures to be favored for several reasons. A 4-year-old son of Glitterman, Champali enters the Sprint at the top of his game, having won his last two starts, both at Churchill Downs, including the Grade 3 Aristides Handicap by 3 1/4 lengths. He will also have the services of jockey Jerry Bailey, whose mounts are always well supported when he makes one of his rare appearances at Calder. And with Alke and Hombre Rapido out, Champali appears to have enough speed to make the lead from his inside post should Bailey and trainer Greg Foley choose to employ such a strategy.

"Naturally I'm glad to have Alke out because he was the one to beat," said Foley. "I'm not going to tell Jerry to send him to the lead but my horse figures to be close up if not in front. I'll leave that up to Jerry. He came out of the Aristides in good shape and is coming into this race at the top of his game."

Valid Video has always done his best from off the pace and could be at a bit of a disadvantage if Champali or anybody else gets away with soft early fractions. But there is little doubt about Valid Video's fondness for the course, considering the manner in which he easily defeated Cajun Beat to win the Grade 3 Carry Back Stakes on the 2003 Summit of Speed program.

Valid Video earned his Grade 1 victory six weeks later, when he defeated Great Notion and Ghostzapper to capture Saratoga's King's Bishop. Valid Video closed out his 3-year-old campaign by finishing last in the Breeders' Cup Sprint and is winless in three starts this year. He did, however, show signs that he is rounding back to peak form with a second-place finish in the James B. Moseley Handicap at Suffolk Downs.

Clock Stopper ships in from Churchill Downs off an impressive victory and owns a couple of decisions over Champali, including an easy victory in Keeneland's seven-furlong Perryville Stakes in his 2003 finale. The 111 Beyer that Clock Stopper earned finishing second behind Cajun Beat in last year's Kentucky Cup Sprint is the highest of any member of the field.

Twilight Road, Built Up, and Super Frolic are all coming into the race off easy victories over this track and may have the best chance of the locals.