03/15/2009 11:00PM

Pompa cuts ties with Reynolds


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Pat Reynolds didn't have long to celebrate Backseat Rhythm's thrilling nose victory in Saturday's Grade 3 Hillsborough Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

On Sunday, Backseat Rhythm and eight other horses Reynolds conditioned for owner Paul Pompa Jr. were transferred to other trainers as Pompa ended his five-year relationship with Reynolds. Reynolds, who had lost his previous 20 races with Pompa-owned horses before the Hillsborough, said his stable is now down to four.

Backseat Rhythm, who won the Grade 1 Garden City last year, and two others were moved to Kiaran McLaughlin at the Palm Meadows training center while four horses, including 3-year-old maiden winners Dubinksy and Well Positioned, were transferred to Richard Dutrow Jr., who coincidentally, is stabled right across the way from Reynolds at Gulfstream Park. Bruce Brown in New York and Greg Griffin in Tampa each was given one horse.

Pompa, who lives in New Jersey, recently underwent gall bladder surgery and was unavailable for comment. Jack Brothers, who among his many hats in the racing industry works as a quasi-agent for Pompa, said Pompa didn't want just one trainer anymore.

"It was a tough decision. Paul does think a lot of [Reynolds]," Brothers said. "What it boiled down to was with young horses and with the horses coming through the program he thought he would be better served if they were spread around a little bit."

Brothers didn't rule out Pompa reuniting with Reynolds at a later date.

"I know Paul's hoping no bridges were burned and the door's open for possibilities down the road," Brothers said.

Reynolds said he was hurt by the fact that he was told of his firing by Brothers and a van driver on Sunday morning and not Pompa himself.

"After a five-year run, a face to face or at least a phone call would have been nice," Reynolds said. "Maybe there's an e-mail somewhere in cyber space that's going to arrive, I don't know."

According to Daily Racing Form statistics, Reynolds and Pompa teamed to win 74 races from 439 starters and purse money of more than $4.1 million since the beginning of 2004. Reynolds was the original trainer of Big Brown, whom he saddled to an 11 1/4-length debut score in a maiden turf race at Saratoga on Sept. 1, 2007. Pompa later sold 75 percent interest in Big Brown to other owners, and the horse was transferred to Dutrow, who guided him to victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness last year. Big Brown won an Eclipse Award as the nation's top 3-year-old.

"His status has changed and the bar is a little higher," Reynolds said of Pompa. "The board of advisors I guess just didn't approve of me anymore."

Reynolds, 57, said he would most likely try to open a public stable, but didn't discount the possibility of taking a break from training.

"I'll do the best that I can do," Reynolds said. "I'm still standing. I've been through a lot worse."

Smooth Air's goal is Met Mile

Trainer Bennie Stutts said his next major objective with Gulfstream Park Handicap winner Smooth Air is the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park on May 25. Stutts said he wants to run the horse once in between, but is not sure when and where that will be.

Stutts said he does not want to shorten the horse up to seven furlongs, which basically rules out the Grade 1 Carter at Aqueduct on April 4. Among the races Stutts will consider for Smooth Air are the Charles Town Classic, a 1 1/8-mile race in which Smooth Air as a Grade 2 winner would be running for a purse of $750,000 on April 18; the $300,000 Texas Mile, a two-turn mile race at Lone Star on April 25; or the $100,000 Westchester Handicap at Belmont, a one-turn mile on April 29.

"We're going to consider everything, but we'll do the right thing by the horse," Stutts said. "The main thing is he came out of the race excellent."

Charitable Man may try Blue Grass

Don't count Charitable Man out of the Kentucky Derby picture just yet.

Charitable Man, who has not run since winning the Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont last September in his second career start, is likely to make his 3-year-old debut in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 11, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. A one-two-three finish there could earn Charitable Man a start in the Derby three weeks later.

"The front-runner right now is the Blue Grass,'' said McLaughlin, who trains Charitable Man for William Warren. "It's very difficult what we're trying to do, but he is a top colt. We don't have to win the Blue Grass."

McLaughlin noted that Charitable Man already has $150,000 in graded stakes earnings so earnings shouldn't be an issue if the field for the Derby overfills, as is usually the case. He said Keeneland's Polytrack is the type of surface that helps a horse trying to run back in a relatively short period of time.

"Coming off that track in three weeks is okay," McLaughlin said. "Coming off a dirt track and back in three weeks is not my preference."

Charitable Man suffered a saucer fracture of his left shin shortly after the Futurity. He had his sixth work of the year on Sunday, going five furlongs in 1:00.20 at Palm Meadows.

Game Face, Any Limit to go separate ways

Game Face and Any Limit, the dominant female sprinters of this meet, are likely headed their separate ways.

Game Face, who defeated Any Limit by 2 1/4 lengths in Sunday's Grade 2 Inside Information Stakes, is likely headed to the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on May 2, trainer Todd Pletcher said.

Meanwhile, Any Limit could be headed to the breeding shed or back to New York for that circuit's series of filly and mare sprint races, trainer Allen Jerkens said.

Game Face added the Inside Information to her victory over Any Limit in the First Lady Handicap here on Jan. 18. Any Limit beat Game Face in the Hurricane Bertie on Feb. 15.

Jockey John Velazquez, who rode Game Face, said his filly was helped out Sunday by Keep the Peace keeping the pressure on Any Limit, who was forced to run a half-mile in 44.60 seconds.

Game Face ran seven furlongs in 1:22.09 and earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure for her effort in the Inside Information.

Gozzip Girl headed to Sands Point

Gozzip Girl, who gave trainer Tom Albertrani his eighth stakes win of 2009 when she rallied to take Sunday's Grade 3 Herecomesthebride Stakes on Sunday, will be pointed to the Grade 2, $150,000 Sands Point Stakes at Belmont Park on May 30.

Albertrani won that same race last year with Raw Silk.

Gozzip Girl capped a solid winter down here with her half-length victory over Obsequious in the Herecomesthebride. Prior to that she won the Coconut Grove and was third in an allowance race after a wide trip.

"I think this was definitely her best performance," Albertrani said. "She showed a great turn of foot the last time she ran, but she really had to fight a little harder this time to get up. It looked like she could go any distance, even further she probably could be effective."

Tale of Ekati targets Carter

The multiple Grade 1 winner Tale of Ekati worked five furlongs in 59.40 seconds Monday morning over Gulfstream Park's main track. He is preparing for a start in the Grade 1 Carter at Aqueduct on April 4. Last year, as a 3-year-old, Tale of Ekati won the Wood and the Cigar Mile - both Grade 1 events - over Aqueduct's main track.

"Not his distance," Robin Smullen, assistant trainer to Barclay Tagg, said of the seven-furlongs of the Carter, "but it is his track."