06/30/2016 2:20PM

Delta Bluesman must be caught in Smile Sprint

Ryan Denver/Equi-Photo
Delta Bluesman (right) gets to the line first in the Decathlon at Monmouth, but he was disqualified for causing interference.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Jorge Navarro came within three-quarters of a length of winning the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Sprint with Private Zone, who finished second behind Runhappy after taking a clear lead at midstretch. Navarro, whose barn is loaded with top-tier sprinters, will try to sew up at least one spot in this year’s BC Sprint on Saturday at Gulfstream Park when he sends out Delta Bluesman as the one to catch in the Smile Sprint.

The Grade 2 Smile Sprint, a Win and You’re In race for the BC Sprint, will be decided at six furlongs for a $250,000 purse and is part of the Summit of Speed program.

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Private Zone is no longer with Navarro. But he has Dubai Golden Shaheen runner-up X Y Jet back in his barn, along with Catalina Red, the winner of the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes in May.

“Losing the Breeders’ Cup Sprint was probably the second-toughest beat of my career,” said Navarro. “Dubai was the toughest. Naturally, I’d love to go back to the Breeders’ Cup and win the Sprint this year, and right now, things are looking up for that race with X Y Jet back, Catalina Red, and Delta Bluesman, who is running so big right now.”

Delta Bluesman has crossed the finish line first three straight times, each time going wire to wire. He won the Decathlon Stakes at Monmouth Park on May 14, but was disqualified to fifth for causing interference. He’s the only leading contender in the Smile Sprint to have competed and won at Gulfstream Park.

“My horse is doing excellent – I can’t ask for more,” said Navarro. “And we know he likes this track, which is a big advantage.”

Delta Bluesman, stabled at Monmouth, is one of four horses to ship in for the Smile Sprint, along with the Kentucky-based Limousine Liberal and the David Jacobson-trained pair of Chief Lion and Eighty Three.

Limousine Liberal competed against Navarro and Private Zone in the 2015 BC Sprint, finishing 10th after bobbling at the break. He’s made three starts since returning to action this season, winning an allowance race over his home base at Keeneland before finishing sixth behind Catalina Red in the Churchill Downs Stakes and second, defeated a head by Alsvid, as the odds-on favorite in the Grade 3 Aristides at Churchill.

“That was a tough beat last time,” said Ben Colebrook, who trains the homebred Limousine Liberal for Katherine Ball. “We got a good trip and just never could get by the other horse.”

Chief Lion brings a three-race win streak into the Smile Sprint. He also seems to do his best running on the lead, although he did rally from off the pace over a sloppy track to win in April at Santa Anita.

Eighty Three was supplemented to the Smile Sprint after finishing second behind Delta Bluesman under allowance conditions three weeks ago at Monmouth Park.

Key Contenders

Delta Bluesman, by Wagon Limit

Last 3 Beyers: 102-102-92

◗ Navarro said he’s not worried about drawing the rail. “The way he broke last time, if he comes out like that again, he’ll be tough to beat,” he said.

Limousine Liberal, by Successful Appeal

Last 3 Beyers: 97-97-100

◗ He ran his best race last summer at Saratoga when second behind Runhappy in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop. “He’s been unlucky in some of his races, but not in the King’s Bishop – other than Runhappy came to Saratoga to run. That was the unlucky part,” quipped Colebrook.