11/27/2003 1:00AM

Hollywood: Watchem Smokey rallies


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Watchem Smokey, bought privately by Edmund Gann and trainer Bobby Frankel earlier this year, won his first major stakes in Thursday's Grade 3 $100,000 Vernon Underwood Stakes at Hollywood Park.

Watchem Smokey ($9.40) ran six furlongs in 1:08.93, finishing a length in front of pacesetter Our New Recruit. Hasty Kris was third, with Avanzado, the 3-5 favorite, only fifth in the field of six.

Ridden by Julie Krone, Watchem Smokey was fourth on the backstretch, stalking Avanzado and Our New Recruit through quick fractions of 21.82 and 44.22 seconds.

Our New Recruit pulled away from Avanzado to lead by a length in early stretch, but Watchem Smokey was making up ground quickly.

Krone kept Watchem Smokey on the inside through the turn and angled to the outside in early stretch. Watchem Smokey caught Our New Recruit in the final sixteenth to post his first graded stakes win in the Grade 3 Underwood.

Watchem Smokey, 3, has won 7 of 8 starts and $154,500. An Oklahoma-bred gelding by Alphabet Soup, Watchem Smokey won his first six starts for owner-trainer Cecil Borel at Louisiana Downs, Lone Star Park, and Oaklawn Park before being purchased privately by Gann and sent to Frankel.

The highlight of the winning streak was a victory in the minor Airline Stakes for 3-year-olds at Louisiana Downs in July. During the streak, Watchem Smokey won three claiming races with values ranging from $25,000 to $30,000.

In his first start for the new team, Watchem Smokey finished fourth in an allowance race on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita on Oct. 3.

Frankel said earlier in the week that Watchem Smokey was a candidate for the $250,000 Malibu Stakes for 3-year-olds over seven furlongs at Santa Anita on Dec. 26.