04/21/2011 2:23PM

Fonner Park: Charles Smith holds two aces in Runza Stakes

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Fonner Park will run a pair of stakes Saturday with 3-year-old Nebraska-bred fillies in the $25,000 Fonner Park Special Stakes and older fillies and mares in the $10,000 Runza Stakes. Both races are six furlongs.

Trainer Charles Smith sends out a strong one-two punch in the Runza with the uncoupled entry of Ruby’s Big Band and Lady Countdown, both winners in their last starts locally. Ruby’s Big Band rallied from just off the pace to take an open allowance race on March 12. She has won 9 of 24 starts and is a stakes winner in Canada. She won the Jack Hardy Stakes last summer at Assiniboia Downs and the Pepsi Stakes locally last year.

Lady Countdown has been near the lead in all her recent races and most recently captured on optional claimer, drawing clear through the lane to notch her seventh career win from 30 starts. It would be no surprise to see Smith in the winner’s circle with either runner.
In the Fonner Park Special, Sounds Better may be the horse to beat. She ran well but was disqualified from the win in her career debut March 25. Sounds Better, trained by Steve Hall, dueled on the lead in that race but drifted out and bothered a rival in the stretch while gamely holding on by a head. She returned on April 8, encountered trouble in the opening quarter-mile but rallied back to finish third.

Sookie’s Kookies, trained by Brian Roberts, finished second in that April 8 maiden race, 1 3/4 lengths in front of Sounds Better, and is the likely favorite in this field of eight.

Christy Johnson sends out the coupled entry of Devils Kiss and Miss Stryker. Devils Kiss won an April 8 maiden race but will face a good deal of early speed in this spot, which includes a trio of untested first-time starters.