04/20/2006 11:00PM

Resting all winter benefits Chestnut Lady


AUBURN, Wash. - Chestnut Lady wrapped up last season's juvenile filly honors at Emerald Downs in just two races. She led throughout her six-furlong debut to defeat maiden special weight runners by 2 1/2 lengths, then came from far back to win the Barbara Shinpoch Stakes at a mile by nearly a length.

Unfortunately, Chestnut Lady raced a third time at 2, taking on males in the 1 1/16-mile Gottstein Futurity. Chestnut Lady, a daughter of Horse Chestnut who races for Mike and Amy Feuerborn, went off as part of the favored entry in the Gottstein, but she scarcely lifted a hoof and finished dead last, some 26 lengths behind her entrymate, Schoolin You.

"In hindsight, running her in the Futurity was probably an error in judgment on our part," said trainer Jim Penney. "She had just run a big race in the Shinpoch and we probably got too high on her and ran her back too soon."

The decision to run Chestnut Lady in the Futurity may have had a silver lining, however. If she had skipped that race, she probably would have campaigned throughout the winter in California. After running poorly in the Futurity, she was given the winter off.

"I think having the winter off did her a lot of good," said Penney. "She came back eager to train this spring, and she has really been doing very well. We hope she'll be a better filly at 3 than she was at 2."

The first indication as to whether that is the case will come on Sunday, when Chestnut Lady makes her 3-year-old debut in the $40,000 U.S. Bank Stakes at six furlongs.

"The fillies who have been racing probably have an advantage over her at this point, but she did win off the bench in her debut and that showed she can fire fresh," said Penney. "She has proven she can sprint and, as I said, she has been training very well. I don't know why she wouldn't run well."

Two intriguing invaders for stakes

Chief among the fillies in the U. S. Bank Stakes who have been racing are California invader Devons Smokin and Turf Paradise shipper Sky High Wonder

Devons Smokin, a California-bred daughter of Devon Lane, won 2 of 9 starts in California for trainer Jeff Bonde, including the $125,000 CTBA Stakes for statebreds at Del Mar in July. Bonde sent the filly to local trainer Manny Calvario about two weeks ago, and Calvario said she seems to have adapted nicely to her new surroundings.

"I don't know her real well yet, but she has trained well all along and she did just what I wanted when she worked on Tuesday," said Calvario, who won last season's Captain Condo Stakes here with Fast Parade. "She is fast, but she seems to be a versatile filly and I don't think she necessarily needs to be on a lead. We'll just have to see what happens when the gate opens."

Sky High Wonder raced twice at Turf Paradise, winning her six-furlong debut by a length and coming back to run third in the one-mile Scottsdale Handicap on the turf on April 1. Trainer Dick Wright said she is no stranger to Emerald Downs.

"I had her in training here last season from July on, but we ran out of time to get her started," said Wright. "She breezed well here, though, so I was pretty high on her."

Wright sent Sky High Wonder to his son, Blaine, who serves as assistant to trainer Grant Forster, at Santa Anita, and she made both of her Turf Paradise starts under Forster's name.

"She fell on her nose at the start in her first race, but she came flying from dead last and really won very impressively," said Wright. "We threw her into the mile stakes on the grass off that one race, which was asking a lot, so we were very pleased that she was able to run third. I really think she has a nice future, so I'm anxious to run her on Sunday. It should be fun."

One final tip from Bobby Smith

The local racing community was saddened to learn of the recent death of R.W. "Bobby" Smith, who served as a steward at Washington tracks for nearly 30 years before retiring in 1989 at the age of 67. His entire career in racing spanned more than 50 years, and included stints at just about every job the sport has to offer. He was a hotwalker, a groom, an exercise rider, a jockey, a jockey agent, a clerk of scales, a paddock judge, a placing judge, an announcer, and a racing secretary before becoming a steward.

Smith's real love was galloping horses, however, and the day after he resigned as steward he took out a license as an exercise rider and began galloping horses for his son, trainer Donnie Smith.

Donnie Smith, who now works as an outrider and has a horse in training with trainer Robbie Baze, said his father remained interested in goings on at the track until the end.

"One of the last things he did was to come out to the track to watch my horse work," said Smith. "Right after the work, he said 'That horse will win his first start.' "

Bobby Smith was rarely wrong about horses, so it might be worth remembering that the horse in question is a 3-year-old gelding named Synanita Secret.