01/05/2011 3:05PM

Mountain Town sizzles in morning drill

Barbara D. Livingston
Morning Line (right) drops a heartbreaker to Dakota Phone in the BC Dirt Mile. He will return in the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope on Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Mountain Town, runner-up to Uncle Mo in the Grade 1 Champagne in his second career start, made a fast track look even faster Wednesday morning when working six furlongs in 1:11.52 shortly after the renovation break.

Going in company with Sr. Henry, an older allowance winner claimed for $75,000 last summer at Saratoga, Mountain Town posted splits of 23.22 seconds, 45.81, and 58.56 before edging about a length clear of his stablemate at the wire.

“The track seems to be in pretty good shape,” Rick Dutrow, the trainer of both horses, said while relaxing outside his barn shortly after Mountain Town had finished cooling out. “He went well this morning. I usually breeze him in company. We’re right where we want to be with him right now.”

Dutrow said Mountain Town, a former claimer himself, is being pointed to the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on Feb. 26, although he could possibly have one start prior to that race. He also confirmed that Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Boys At Tosconova remains on target for the Grade 3 Holy Bull on Jan. 30, while Amen Hallelujah will make her 2011 debut here Jan. 29 in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint.

Rule returning in Hal’s Hope

Rule and Morning Line tower over a field of seven older horses entered in the Grade 3, $100,000 Hal’s Hope, one of two stakes to be run here Saturday.

Rule, making his first start since finishing third as the favorite in the Florida Derby here last spring, drew post 2 and will be ridden by Javier Castellano in the one-mile Hal’s Hope. Todd Pletcher said recently that he has been pleased with the way Rule has been training since returning from the layoff.

Drawn alongside in post 3 is Morning Line, with John Velazquez to ride. Morning Line, trained by Nick Zito, is entered off a tough beat in the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Among the rest of the field is Tackleberry and Dream Maestro, the respective one-two finishers in the Fred Hooper last month at Calder.

The Hal’s Hope goes as the ninth of 10 Saturday races. The card also includes the $100,000 Spectacular Bid (race 7), a six-furlong race that drew a field of nine 3-year-olds, none of them stakes winners.

Entries for the twin turf stakes to be run here Sunday, the Fort Lauderdale and Marshua’s River, were to be drawn Thursday. Both are Grade 3, $100,000 races at 1 1/16 miles.

Smullen posts reward for stolen ring

Robin Smullen, assistant trainer to Barclay Tagg, is asking for help locating a ring commemorating Funny Cide’s victory in the 2003 Kentucky Derby that was stolen from her luggage at the Barbados Airport the day after Christmas.

Smullen said she checked her luggage in Barbados for the American Airlines flight to Fort Lauderdale and when she returned home discovered that almost all her jewelry, including the ring, was missing.

“I didn’t even realize my luggage had been broken into until I was home, unpacking, and opened my jewelry case,” Smullen said. “Somebody took nearly everything out of the case, my ring as well as all my gold and silver, except for a couple of inexpensive pieces, and snapped it back shut.”

Smullen said the ring is extra special to her because its centerpiece was a family heirloom, a diamond that was given to her by her grandmother.

“The ring looks like a typical high school ring with the diamond in the center, the words Kentucky Derby inscribed on one side, Preakness on the other, and my name engraved on the inside.”

Smullen said she is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the safe recovery of the ring.

Sugar Swirl attracts 28 nominees

Nominations for the $100,000 Sugar Swirl and Dania Beach stakes, to be decided Saturday, Jan. 15, and Sunday, Jan. 16, respectively, have been released, with both races proving popular with local horsemen.

The Grade 3 Sugar Swirl attracted nominations from 28 older fillies and mares, three of whom, Jessica Is Back, Moontune Missy, and My Jen, ran in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. The grassy Dania Beach lured 35 nominations, topped by Soldat, runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. King Congie, Private Prize, and Swift Warrior, the first three finishers in Calder’s Tropical Park Derby, and stakes winner Tiz Blessed also were nominated to the one-mile test for 3-year-olds.

◗ Apprentice Jose Alvarez and Bisnath Parboo won the first jockey and training titles of their careers at the Tropical at Calder meeting, which ended Tuesday. Alvarez won a pair of races on closing day to conclude the session with 43 victories, three more than Manny Cruz and four better than Luis Saez. Parboo rose from relative obscurity to dominate the trainer standings, winning with 13 of his last 20 starters to finish with 26 tallies, 10 better than runner-ups Steve Dwoskin and Eddie Plesa Jr.

◗ A memorial service was held Wednesday evening for former jockey Benny Green who passed away last week at the age of 57. Green, a New York native, rode throughout the East Coast and is best known for being the regular rider of the multiple stakes winner Sunny Prospector.

– additional reporting by Marty McGee