12/19/2011 2:20PM

Diverse stables of Scott, Smith share fondness for spending winter at Tampa Bay Downs

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Photo by Z/Keeneland
Dr. Zic, winner of the 2010 Vinery Madison at Keeneland, is among the horses who have built their foundation during the winter at Tampa Bay Downs for trainer Joan Scott.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Stables, like people, have different personalities. Take the case of the stables run by Joan Scott and Robert G. Smith.

Scott has developed a reputation as a solid developer of young runners, including Dr. Zic, a Grade 1 stakes winner who earned $365,786, while following a racing schedule that includes stops at Churchill Downs, Keeneland, Arlington Park, and other high-profile venues.

Scott feels her schedule meshes nicely with that of Tampa Bay Downs. She was the first to have horses on the grounds and bedded down when the backstretch opened here a month before opening day and took advantage of that early arrival to work and train her runners over the sandy Tampa main strip. The surface, long applauded as one of the best and safest in the country, gives horse a strong “bottom” in their training and Scott’s horses have obviously held a fitness edge over many of her competitors in the opening days of the meeting as she has sent out 6 winners from 10 starters.

“We got down here as quick as we could and were able to get a lot of time over the track with our runners before the meeting start,” Scott said. “In the past, the sooner I’ve been able to get down here the better things have gone and this year was no exception. This is a really great track to get horses fit on and it’s also a safe track. We’ve been fortunate to get the ones who were ready to run in races and they’ve done well.”

While the Scott stable has an active traveling schedule, Smith’s operation is a home-grown, Florida-based business from top to bottom. Smith, who has been racing horses at Tampa for 20 years, has a 108-acre farm near Ocala named Wesfield, where the Smith family does everything from handling their 10 broodmares to breaking young horses, handling lay-ups, and setting the early foundation for their young horses on the spread that includes a five-furlong training track.

After shipping in with most of his horses for several years, Smith got more stalls at Tampa last season and began training his runners at the track between races. The outfit won seven races during the 2010-11 meeting and has a winner from five starters thus far this season.

“It’s a family operation through and through,” said Smith, “My wife Saronda is an invaluable partner, taking care of a lot of the details on the farm and this winter she’s also assistant trainer here for Antonio Sano, who was leading trainer at Calder this season. And my sons Drake and Rhett are also heavily involved with Rhett doing a good bit of work on the farm now while Drake’s here at the track with me.”

The star of the Smith stable is White Merlot, winner of 3 of 9 lifetime and second, beaten a head in the Grade 3 Azalea at Calder this past summer. White Merlot is just coming back off a short break and had her first three-furlong work Saturday morning,

“We hoping she’ll be back in action sometime in February.”

◗ Several mainstays among the local training colony are off to good starts this meeting, including Manny Criollo .The former rider captured the sixth race on Saturday to give him 3 winners from 11 starters. Derek Ryan, who had to do some shuffling of his stable after one of his owners moved elsewhere this past summer, is also off to a good start with 3 wins from 10 runners while Bernell Rhone, who has had a solid record in recent meetings since he began to winter here in 2006-07, also has sent out three winners.

◗ Quiz Whiz shaded the 1:10 mark on Wednesday when he whipped a good group of allowance sprinters while covering the six furlongs in 1:09.85. Ridden by Jose Lopez, Quiz Whiz has now won 5 races from 13 career outing and could possibly see action next in the Pelican Stakes on Jan. 7, according to his trainer, Monte Thomas.