10/16/2009 12:00AM

New faces at top of standings

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Four-Footed Fotos
Fort Prado's racing future remains undecided, but there are plans to stand him at stud in 2010.

STICKNEY, Ill. - The names at the top of the Hawthorne jockey standings - they're just strange. Through Thursday's action here, Ariel Smith led Israel Ocampo 14 wins to 12.

Neither of those jockeys even rode for most of the recently concluded Arlington Park meet. Ocampo, who was based at Prairie Meadows much of the summer, did well in Chicago a few years ago, but Smith has been in and out of town on a couple occasions while staying for no more than a few weeks. He arrived at Arlington for the start of the 2006 meet as the supposed first-call rider for leading owner Frank Calabrese, but that position did not last long, and neither did Smith, who won an Eclipse Award as the leading apprentice rider of 1999.

Smith, a 29-year-old Florida native, has gotten steady support from trainer Wesley Ward. That's a good outfit to ride for in the sense that Ward wins at a high percentage, but Ward also runs horses all over the place and never has that many starters at a particular meet. And without great support from any one barn, Smith had won just 19 races in 2009 before he arrived in Chicago late this summer.

Waiting for him was agent Patrick Mackey - though "agent" is a designation only recently applied to the young and personable Mackey. A racing official for several years on the Chicago circuit, Mackey had never booked mounts before acquiring an agent's license and taking Smith's book at Arlington.

The unlikely pairing has reaped quick rewards. Mackey said Smith made the rounds regularly at Arlington, getting his name back out among local horsemen. Smith rode three winners on opening day of the Hawthorne meet, Oct. 1, and Mackey's phone has been ringing ever since.

Despite a steady diet of live mounts, Smith is neck and neck with Ocampo, who had a six-winner day Sunday. Ocampo's business is being handled this fall by Jay Fedor, whose longtime rider, Chris Emigh, is trying his hand at Keeneland this fall.

Plans undecided for Fort Prado

Plans are up in the air for leading Illinois-bred Fort Prado, whose long and eminently successful career is winding to a close.

Fort Prado, now 8, turned back the clock and won the Kentucky Cup Turf Dash in September at Kentucky Downs, but he ran more to his 2009 norm last out at Keeneland, finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Woodford. Fort Prado still is willing and is far from washed up, but plans are in the works to stand him at stud somewhere in 2010, and trainer Chris Block is weighing the options in terms of whether or where to race Fort Prado next.

Fort Prado, who is at Keeneland right now, is a possible runner in the Lightning Jet Handicap for Illinois-breds here Oct. 31, Block said Thursday. But there also is a chance that the recent Keeneland start could be the last of Fort Prado's long career.

Block has another possible runner for the Lightning Jet is Shrewd Operator, who scored a sharp win near the end of the Arlington meet and is training at Hawthorne.

Allowance draws overflow field

In this day and age, it's more than a little surprising to see an overflow field entered in a second-level route allowance race, but 12, plus two also-eligibles, were entered in the featured eighth here Sunday. The race also is open to $30,000 claimers and is carded at 1 1/16 miles on dirt. And good luck sorting through it, handicappers.

The favorite in this crapshoot could got off at a price of something like 4-1, and it would be no shock to see any one of, say, nine horses come home first. The most tepid of choices is Bill of Bills, who had a good run during the 2008 fall-winter meet here and has posted two October workouts for his first start since Arlington.