06/22/2008 11:00PM

Desert Party wins like he's special


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - It is not even July, making it important not to get ahead of oneself, and for every flashy maiden winner who pans out, there are several others who are only flashes in the pan. That said, the 2-year-old Desert Party looked like he could become any sort of horse this summer after making his career debut Sunday at Arlington.

Desert Party was supposed to be fast. He brought $425,000 at a yearling auction, and a $2.1 million bid from representatives of the powerful Darley Stable as a 2-year-old in training sale this past winter. And from the look of things, this will not be one of the many multimillion-dollar busts.

Desert Party broke from post 11 in a 4 1/2-furlong race that started almost on the far turn. He was said by trainer Eoin Harty not to be a quick, precocious kind of horse, and because he was not sent to the lead by jockey Rene Douglas, Desert Party wound up losing many yards of ground around the turn. All that, and Desert Party won by almost four lengths, with a fast time of 51.97 seconds and plenty left in the tank. The final time translated to a 72 Beyer Speed Figure.

"I think he might be one of the best 2-year-olds I ever rode," Douglas said Monday morning. "The quality of this horse is unbelievable."

Harty, who doesn't have a string here, was in Chicago for the race, and said Desert Party had returned to Keeneland on Monday morning.

Desert Party raced in behind horses for part of the turn, came five wide for the stretch, and quickened away from his rivals when asked for a bit of run after changing leads. He won geared down, and almost certainly will be a better horse with more distance.

"It was a good introduction," Harty said. "He got the benefit of a race under his belt and a win, and a race over the Polytrack."

Harty said last week that he was keen on racing Desert Party, a son of Street Cry, over synthetic surfaces, but on Monday, Harty was unsure where the colt would end up.

"We'll wait a few days, make sure everything is good to go, and then formulate a game plan about whether he goes to California or Saratoga for the summer," he said.

According to Douglas, either option would be fine.

"Wherever he goes, they'd better be ready for him," he said.

Smooth Air misses a breeze

Bennie Stutts has decided to let Smooth Air's feet do the talking. The colt showed signs of discomfort when a blacksmith tested his hooves late last week, so the veteran trainer decided not to breeze the best horse of his career Saturday, as he had hoped to do, and therefore forgo a run in the Iowa Derby.

The Iowa Derby had been Smooth Air's intended spot coming out of his strong win last month in the Ohio Derby, but Smooth Air subsequently developed tender feet, and Stutts has not been able to breeze the horse.

"When you watch this horse train on the track, you never see him take a bad step, but just as a precautionary measure, I had the blacksmith sound his feet, and he found some soreness," Stutts said Monday morning. "The horse has been good to us, and I'm going to do the right thing by him."

Smooth Air is merely walking the shed row until his feet are tested again by a blacksmith. That will happen Wednesday, and Stutts is hopeful Smooth Air will return to training by the end of this week.

The Aug. 2 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park is a potential target, said Stutts, who came to Arlington with Smooth Air to be more centrally based than if he had stayed home at Calder in Florida.

Lady Lionel suffers bowed tendon

Plans are uncertain for several winners of Prairie State Festival races here on Saturday, but, unfortunately, the future of Lincoln Heritage Stakes winner Lady Lionel is fixed. Six-year-old Lady Lionel suffered a tendon injury during the biggest win of her career, and is done for the season, trainer Moises Yanez said.

"She's not real bad, but she has a bow," Yanez said. "She'll definitely have the rest of the year off."

Tidings were much better from the barn of trainer Chris Block, who saw Fort Prado go down to defeat in the Black Tie Affair after winning the race three years in a row, but who swept the two stakes for 3-year-olds on Saturday.

Block said the filly Apple Martini is possible for the Hatoof Stakes on turf, while Amazing Results, who looked especially good winning the Springfield on Saturday, could land in any number of spots.

Fort Prado will be pointed for the Arlington Sprint Handicap on turf later this meet.

Fort Prado's vanquisher, 4-year-old Gentleman Chester, ran the best race of his career, and now has started his own Prairie State win streak, having taken the 2007 Springfield.

Gentleman Chester has required some patience and tinkering, but trainer Ralph Nicks helped the horse put everything together, and Gentleman Chester appears to have a bright future.

"There's not really races that fit that well on the calendar, so we'll have to wait," said the Churchill Downs-based Nicks.

Barbette shows affinity for Arlington

Trainer Steve Hobby correctly points out that since Barbette won a stakes race at Sam Houston over the winter, and was disqualified from a stakes win at Ellis Park last summer, it would be wrong to classify her as a one-track pony.

But Barbette seems to have a special fondness for the Arlington turf, as evidenced by a strong allowance-race win here last summer, and an equally impressive two-length score in the Possibly Perfect Stakes on Sunday.

"I would think the bigger turns and everything here would be good for her, as big as she is," Hobby said.

Barbette, placed close to a moderate pace by Rene Douglas, took control of the race in midstretch and won easily. The performance probably earned her a spot in the Grade 3 Modesty Handicap here July 12, barring an unexpected influx of high-class turf females for the race.