07/04/2007 11:00PM

Half-million reasons to come to Florida

Jim Lisa
Smokey Stover heads the Smile Stakes, one of four graded races for sprinters on the Summit of Speed program at Calder.

MIAMI - Trainer Greg Gilchrist has said that if you put up a $500,000 purse for sprinters in Fairbanks, Alaska, the good horses will come. Fortunately for both Gilchrist and his colleague Todd Beattie, they have to send their top-rated speedsters Smokey Stover and Fabulous Strike only to Miami on Saturday to compete in Calder's Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap. The Smile is the richest sprint race in this country aside from the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

The six-furlong Smile is the feature attraction on Saturday's $2 million Summit of Speed program, which also includes the Grade 1, $500,000 Princess Rooney Handicap,the $300,000 Azalea, a Grade 3, and the Grade 2 Carry Back Stakes. There will be eight stakes races in all on a 13-race card that begins at 12:50 p.m. Eastern. The four graded races along with the $100,000 Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint Handicap will make up a special pick five wager that carries a guaranteed pool of $500,000. The Summit of Speed races will be televised live on Television Games Network.

Smokey Stover and Fabulous Strike are among the elite of the nation's sprint division, and each will bring a four-race win streak into the Smile.

Smokey Stover, who will carry high weight of 123 pounds, including Aaron Gryder, has kept the better company of the pair during the opening half of the season. Fabulous Strike, who receives a one-pound concession from his West Coast rival, has posted the better Beyer Speed Figures of the two.

Smokey Stover opened his 2007 campaign with an easy 10-length allowance win at Golden Gate Fields before gaining national notoriety by easily defeating Proud Tower Too and Bordonaro in Santa Anita's Sunshine Millions Sprint. He followed that performance with victories in the Grade 3 Bay Meadows Sprint Handicap and more recently Santa Anita's Grade 2 Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap.

In the Potrero Grande, Smokey Stover dominated a field that included Greg's Gold and Sailors Sunset, both of whom returned to win a stakes in their next start.

Smokey Stover has won each of his last three starts from just off the pace under Gryder, and that's the strategy Gilchrist plans to employ again in the Smile.

"He seems to be a better horse when he has another horse or two to run at," said Gilchrist, who has already won two Summit of Speed races, with Lost in the Fog in the 2005 Carry Back and Victorina in the 2006 Azalea. "He just seems to reserve himself better with a target in front of him than when he's on the lead. Aaron's ridden him three times, and they just happen to be the three best races of this horse's life."

One of Smokey Stover's targets on Saturday will be Fabulous Strike, a gelded son of Smart Strike who has led at every call during each of the four races during his winning streak. Those victories include a two-length triumph in the Grade 3 Aristides on June 2 at Churchill Downs, a race he won with speed to spare. Fabulous Strike has posted Beyer Figures o between 115 and 119 during the win streak, which dates back to November of 2006.

"I wouldn't trade my places with anyone in this race," said Beattie, who trains Fabulous Strike out of his home base at Penn National. "Believe it or not, I don't really believe my horse has to be on the lead. I think he can definitely be very versatile, but I'll let Robby play that scenario according to the break."

Robby Albarado will be aboard Fabulous Strike for the first time in the Smile.

Fabulous Strike could get company on the lead from Weigelia and How's Your Halo. Although stabled at Delaware with trainer Michael Trombetta, Weigelia loves the Calder strip, having won 8 of his 13 races at Calder, including the Ponche Handicap earlier in the meet and the Grade 3 Kenny Noe Handicap in his 2006 finale.

The best of the locals is Mach Ride, who finished second behind the odds-on Too Much Bling despite racing against the grain of a biased strip a year ago in the Carry Back. Trained by Steve Standridge, Mach Ride is coming off what may be his best performance yet, a 7 1/2-length triumph over How's Your Halo in the Champali Stakes on June 16, when he was equipped with blinkers for the first time in his career.