04/06/2011 1:17PM

Santa Anita: Smart Striking should improve for hot Callaghan barn


ARCADIA, Calif. – It has taken a few months for trainer Simon Callaghan’s stable to gather momentum this year, and the results of the last three weeks suggest the stable deserves to be followed this spring.

Callaghan had five starters in January and February but has had eight in the last three weeks, including three winners and two second-place finishers.

Callaghan, 28, expects Smart Striking to add to that success when the 4-year-old filly makes her second start in the United States in Friday’s second race, a $59,000 allowance race over 1 1/8 miles on turf. In her American debut in an optional claimer over a mile on turf March 12, Smart Striking closed from last after a poor start to finish fourth, 1 1/4 lengths behind Andina.

“Our plan was to sit close to the pace,” Callaghan said. “We got bumped and were pushed back.

“I think she’s got a good chance. I think there are reasons for her to move forward. She’s got a chance to be stakes-caliber.”

Smart Striking has won 2 of 7 starts and $50,135. Last year in Ireland, she won consecutive races in July, against maidens at Leopardstown and in a $46,800 handicap over 7 1/2 furlongs at Galway. Both races were on turf.

Callaghan said the plan for his stable in early 2011 was to wait with some of his runners, a theory that has worked well in recent weeks.

“We were pretty patient,” Callaghan said. “We wanted to have fresh horses moving to the summer. I think with the fillies it’s important to get the right spots. When you get to a certain level, the races can be very competitive.”

Friday’s second race drew a solid field. There are six fillies and mares, including First Settler, who won an allowance race over 1 1/8 miles on turf on Feb. 3; Catchy Tune and Gripsholm Castle, who were second and third in front of Smart Striking on March 12; and Blue Maiden and Megaspiel, who were second in optional claiming races on turf in February.

Blue Maiden was group stakes-placed in England last year but has only one win in four starts in this country. Trained by Richard Mandella, she was second in an optional claimer for turf sprinters on Feb. 24 in her first start of the year.

“The last race didn’t go the way I expected,” Mandella said. “I expect her to do well.”