04/27/2008 11:00PM

A fresh start for Irish Smoke


ELMONT, N.Y. - Though the members of the International Equine Acquisitions Holdings Stable will be preoccupied with the proceedings in Kentucky on Saturday, they will be very interested in at least one race at Belmont Park.

Irish Smoke, winner of last year's Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga, will be making her first start for IEAH when she runs in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Nassau County Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Irish Smoke raced last year for Lewis Laken and West Point Stable, winning 2 of 4 starts. IEAH purchased the Smoke Glacken filly for $750,000 out of last November's Fasig-Tipton Kentucky sale and turned her over to trainer Richard Dutrow Jr.

"She came to us at Palm Meadows and she wasn't training the way we needed her to," Dutrow said.

Irish Smoke was then shipped to Dr. Larry Bramlage in Kentucky. Bramlage recommended Irish Smoke get some time off. When she was ready to resume training, Irish Smoke was shipped to Dutrow's Aqueduct barn, where she has been in steady training since early March.

"She's training like she's going to run big," Dutrow said.

Dutrow will be in Kentucky on Saturday to saddle favorite Big Brown in the Derby for IEAH and Paul Pompa Jr. IEAH will also be represented in the Derby by Court Vision.

Others pointing to the Nassau County are Carolyn's Cat, J Z Warrior, Paint Me Red, and Zaftig. Dagger and Moonshine Alice are listed as questionable by the racing department.

NYRA takes over TV production

The New York Racing Association is hoping to enhance the simulcast presentation of its races beginning with Wednesday's opening of the Belmont Park meet.

NYRA has taken over the entire television production from Tele-view. NYRA hopes to unveil a new graphics package as well as utilize additional cameras for the paddock, post parade, and starting gate. NYRA will begin use of a robotic camera in the paddock and at some point in the meet will begin using a portable camera at the gate.

"In the post parade you'll be able to get a cleaner, clear view of each horse and not have to look around the pony," NYRA president Charlie Hayward said.

Jason Blewitt, host of Thoroughbred Action, will be paired in the paddock with Jan Rushton for prerace analysis. Blewitt will be focusing on race analysis while Rushton will be focusing on how horses look and are acting in the paddock.

Over time, NYRA will also improve the ontrack race replay system.

John Imbriale, NYRA's manager of media services and winter track announcer, will be overseeing the new television presentation. Because of Imbriale's duties, Keeneland announcer Kurt Becker will call the races at Belmont on Thursday through Sunday while regular track announcer Tom Durkin is in Louisville.

Lukas back in town with 28 head

After a one-year hiatus, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas is back for the Belmont spring-summer meet. He will have 28 horses on the grounds, the majority in barn 24 under the care of assistant Sebastian Nicholl.

"We're trying to work our way back, looks like things are stabilizing," Lukas said Monday morning at Churchill Downs. "Now that we got our numbers back up there, we're probably going to stay year-round. We'll consider the winter meet, too."

Many of the horses Lukas has in New York will be for owners John Ed Anthony and Mary Lou Whitney. Among the more talented horses Lukas will have at Belmont are Richland Creek, a 4-year-old son of Smart Strike who won three allowance races at Oaklawn Park, and Holla Bend, a 4-year-old son of Holy Bull who has 2 wins and 2 seconds in 5 starts for Lukas.

Lukas was the leading trainer at Belmont's spring-summer meet six times from 1985-91.

Harlem Rocker likely Woodbine-bound

Trainer Todd Pletcher said there is a "small chance" that Withers winner Harlem Rocker could run in the Preakness on May 17, but it is more likely that the 3-year-old will remain pointed to the Plate Trial at Woodbine on June 1. His summer objective is the $1 million Queen's Plate on June 22.

Harlem Rocker, a Canadian-bred son of Macho Uno, ran his record to 3 for 3 with a 2 1/2-length victory over J Be K in the Withers. He covered the mile in 1:34.50 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 106.

"I was impressed," said Pletcher, who watched the race from Kentucky. "He's a talented horse. To sit back off a slow first half-mile and to show the type of finish that he did with his ears pricked is exciting."

Contessa bests Levine at wire

Trainer Gary Contessa won three races, including the finale on Sunday, to wrest the spring training title from Bruce Levine, 15-14. Contessa, whose three winners Sunday were Survived, Battingstar, and Has Spoken, also won the inner track title, 82-52, over Levine.

Alan Garcia, who won four races on Saturday, took the jockey title, 22-19 over Rajiv Maragh, who won three races on Sunday's final card.

* NYRA will host the first "Fabulous Fillies Day Luncheon" on June 6, the day before the Belmont Stakes. The cost is $40 per person and includes a buffet lunch, box seats, program, trip to the paddock, winner's circle presentation, a photo of Rags to Riches's 2007 Belmont victory, and a souvenir Belmont Stakes glass.

* SHOWdown, the popular online handicapping contest, resumes Wednesday. The contest requires fans to pick one horse each day to finish in the top three. It costs $10 to enter. Selections must be made 15 minutes prior to first post each racing day.

* ESPN Radio's Max Kellerman will be broadcasting live from Belmont between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Wednesday.