01/18/2011 10:54AM

Crisis of Spirit reunites with Smith in optional claimer at Santa Anita

Benoit & Associates
Crisis of Spirit and jockey Mike Smith will be reunited in an optional claimer Thursday at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Jockey Mike Smith had just finished a workout aboard Crisis of Spirit at Santa Anita on Jan. 13 when he shouted an ultimatum to trainer Bob Baffert, who was watching from trackside.

“I want her back,” Smith yelled to Baffert. “She used to be mine.”

Smith’s time with Crisis of Spirit will extend from the morning to the afternoon for the first time in 15 months at Santa Anita on Thursday when the filly starts in an optional claimer over six furlongs. A 4-year-old owned by breeder Mike Pegram, Crisis of Spirit has won 2 of 10 starts and $103,911. Smith was aboard the filly’s two wins, a maiden race and the Anoakia Stakes, in fall 2009.

Even before Jan. 13, Smith had worked Crisis of Spirit in recent weeks and was impressed by what she accomplished.

“She’s been working lights out,” he said last weekend.

Thursday’s race, which drew a field of six, is Crisis of Spirit’s first start since a 10th-place finish in the Grade 3 Harold Ramser Handicap at Hollywood Park in October. She was winless in six starts last year, ridden by three jockeys, highlighted by a third in the Le Cle Stakes on turf at Hollywood Park in July.

Crisis of Spirit is one of two stakes winners in Thursday’s field, joined by Well Deserved, winner of the 2009 Cinderella Stakes. Trained by David Hofmans, Well Deserved made one start last year, finishing fourth in the Raise Your Skirts Stakes over six furlongs on turf at Hollywood Park in November.

Baffert has two runners in Thursday’s optional claimer, including Salty Sarah, who won an optional claimer over five furlongs on turf at Hollywood Park on Dec. 12. She has worked quickly in recent weeks at Santa Anita.

Well Deserved, Crisis of Spirit, and Salty Sarah should contribute to a quick pace, which delights trainer Brian Koriner. He starts Church Camp, who has drawn the outside post in the field of six.

Church Camp, a winner of 2 of 6 starts, finished second, beaten a neck, in an allowance race at Hollywood Park on Nov. 26, a race that Koriner thought at the time would prepare the now 4-year-old filly for 2011.

“She’s been training great and has a great post,” Koriner said. “She should have every chance to be in the right spot.”