03/05/2007 12:00AM

Dan Smithwick

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The fact that Daniel M. "Speedy" Smithwick Jr. is having a successful training career should come as no surprise. He comes from a family of successful horsemen, being a son of D. Michael "Mikey" Smithwick, a Hall of Fame trainer who died last year at age 77, and being a nephew of the late Alfred "Paddy" Smithwick, a Hall of Fame Steeplechase jockey.

But unlike his father and uncle, Smithwick's focus has been on training horses for flat races - at least over the last 15 years. Graded stakes horses Double Found, Zignew, Antespend, Super May, and Ziggy's Act are just some of successful horses that have raced for him.

Many of those top runners came when Smithwick trained for Jack Kent Cooke, a successful horse owner and breeder who also owned at one time the L.A. Lakers and Washington Redskins. It was at Cooke's urging that Smithwick made the switch from training steeplechasers to training flat runners.

His stable is much different than when he trained for Cooke in the early to mid 1990's, but it has been effective, particularly over the Polytrack surface at Turfway Park. Through Sunday, Smithwick had 7 winners from 22 starters at the current Turfway Park meet. That followed a 7-for-17 holiday meet at Turfway, a meet that began in late November and ended Dec. 31.

His backers at the betting windows have been rewarded. A $2 wager on each of his current meet starters would have yielded an average return of $2.85, which followed a holiday meet in which his return on investment on a $2 wager was $5.82.

Smithwick said his stable is going strong due to the support of David Ross, a leading owner that races and claims horses across the country. Smithwick also has a number of horses who like racing over Polytrack, with Our Dancing Babe being an example.

Our Dancing Babe has won three straight over Turfway's Polytrack surface, including the Feb. 24 Valdale Stakes at Turfway. She is being pointed to the Grade 3 Bourbonette at Turfway on March 24.

The Bourbonette is not the only major race Smithwick is considering for her. He is excited about running her in a grass stakes race, pointing to a runner-up finish on grass earlier in her career when she was running at Colonial Downs for trainer Ann Merryman. "The ultimate goal is the Virginia Oaks" at Colonial Downs July 21, he said.

The accompanying trainer statistics suggest she merits respect. Smithwick has won with 2 of his last 10 stakes starters, and a bet on each would have generated a profit.

He also shows favorable returns with allowance and claiming horses, dirt runners, horses seeking repeat victories, and with horses returning following short layoffs of 31-60 days.

Smithwick, 47, who rode and trained steeplechasers prior to training flat runners, said there are clear differences between training the two types. In steeplechasing, the horses are typically older and not as quick he said, and they are trained with two-minute licks, as opposed to quick, short drills.

"In some ways it is more difficult to keep them sound," he said of steeplechase horses. "That's why that have a lot of lines in their past performances. You also have a lot more soft tissue injuries than in flat racing."

Smithwick's current stable represents a broad range of runners. Some are allowance horses, others claimers. The latter group could grow more in the months ahead. Ross, he said, "loves the game" and will probably look to claim some horses in Kentucky this spring when the quality of racing picks up at Keeneland and Churchill Downs.