07/22/2005 11:00PM

Hendricks, Ernsts win three-way shake for $125K claimer


DEL MAR, Calif. - The demand for $125,000 claimers in Southern California is apparently higher than anyone imagined.

Friday, Smoocher, the runner-up in an optional claimer at seven furlongs, was taken by owners John and Allegra Ernst and trainer Dan Hendricks. To gain ownership of the 4-year-old colt, they had to prevail in a three-way shake with owners represented by trainers Mike Machowsky and Doug O'Neill.

The price broke a track record of $100,000 for a claim that had been achieved five times from 1995 to 2003.

"A three-way shake for a $125,000 claimer, can you imagine?" Hendricks said. "I had to shake for $80,000 once. I was surprised to see Machowsky and O'Neill wanted it. It took a lot of guts to do it."

With sales tax included, the final bill to the Ernsts was $134,687.50.

Hendricks believes the Ernsts have acquired a stakes-caliber colt. Placing the claim was John Ernst's idea, Hendricks said.

"The owners came up to me with this horse," Hendricks said. "I said, 'He'd better be a real good-looking horse.' "

Previously trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Smoocher finished 1 1/2 lengths behind the 8-year-old Hasty Kris in Friday's race. A winner of 4 of 16 starts and $320,519, Smoocher was a stakes winner in Canada at 2 - the Grade 2 Grey Breeders' Cup Stakes - and was briefly on the Kentucky Derby trail in 2004, finishing seventh in the Florida Derby.

This year, Smoocher has won 2 of 7 starts, with both victories coming in six-furlong optional claimers at Bay Meadows during the winter.

Hendricks is hopeful that Smoocher can return in a stakes such as the $250,000 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs on Aug. 21 or the $300,000 Pat O'Brien Breeders' Cup Handicap here at seven furlongs on the same day.

Hendricks admits there was a risk in taking Smoocher for such a high claiming price, not really knowing the history of the colt, but he insists it was money well spent considering the cost of yearlings and 2-year-olds in training.

"Where else for $125,000 can you buy a high-performance horse, at least for allowance and stakes?" he said. "You buy these 2-year-olds in training for the same price that have only been an eighth of a mile."

Hasty Kris still getting the job done

Hasty Kris is nearing the end of his career, but that is by design.

A gelding, Hasty Kris has won 10 of 46 starts. Friday's race, in which he was eligible to be claimed for $125,000, was his first victory since the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap at Santa Anita in January.

Trainer John Sadler said Hasty Kris is unlikely to race past this year. "Retirement is still the plan," he said.

Owned by CRK Stable, Hasty Kris ran for a $50,000 claiming price in 2003, but has run in more expensive claimers or graded stakes in the last 18 months.

Devons Smokin upsets CTBA Stakes

Devons Smokin pulled a $27 upset in Friday's $125,000 California Thoroughbred Breeders Association Stakes for 2-year-old statebred fillies.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Devons Smokin stalked Kalookan Lessie, the pacesetter and 3-5 favorite, to early stretch and pulled clear to win by 3 1/2 lengths. She finished 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.51.

"She broke sharp, but I didn't want the lead," Espinoza said. "I wanted to wait with her and come running when it counted."

After a nine-minute inquiry, the stewards disqualified Kalookan Lessie from second to fifth for crowding Bid of Genius in early stretch.

Devons Smokin, by Devon Lane, has won 2 of 6 starts and $117,428. She beat maidens in her fourth career start at Golden Gate Fields in June.

The race marked the second consecutive year that trainer Jeff Bonde has won the CTBA Stakes. Last year's winner, Sterling Cat, has not started since that win.

Rock Hard Ten stretches his legs

Rock Hard Ten, the handicap star who has not raced since winning the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap in March, worked three furlongs in 36 seconds on Saturday, trainer Richard Mandella said.

The workout was not published on Saturday's workout sheet.

Rock Hard Ten has been plagued by minor injuries in recent months, which prevented him from starting at Hollywood Park. Mandella is pointing Rock Hard Ten to the $500,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting on Oct. 1.

"I've got a lot of time," Mandella said.

* The lone winning ticket in Friday's $2 pick six was worth $515,224. The ticket was sold at Philadelphia Park, track officials said. The winners of the pick six races were Noble Masterpiece ($9.80), Excess Taxes ($12.40), Obtuse ($26.60), Del Mar Ticket ($4.80), Devons Smokin ($27), and Our Father ($11).