02/24/2012 1:48PM

Santa Anita: Smoking G has speed edge in Baffle Stakes

Shigeki Kikkawa
Stoney Fleece returns from a two-month break in the Baffle Stakes.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The favorites in the feature race Sunday at Santa Anita are opposites – Smoking G is a fast horse that runs near the front, Stoney Fleece is a deep closer that mows them down late.

Smoking G and Stoney Fleece meet Sunday in the $70,000 Baffle Stakes, a 6 1/2-furlong turf sprint for 3-year-olds that will be decided by an age-old handicapping riddle – speed or class? If the answer is speed, then Smoking G is the right horse.

“We should be sitting in a good spot,” Smoking G’s trainer, Peter Miller, said. “It doesn’t look like there is much speed, except for Coach Bob. We should be in the garden spot.”

[MORE: Get PPs for the Sunday card at Santa Anita]

That is the same strategy Smoking G employed on the downhill course last month, when he won a maiden race despite a blazing pace. He was positioned a length behind a 21.36-second opening quarter and 1 1/2 lengths behind a 42.97-second half-mile.

Smoking G is the only horse this meet to win a turf sprint racing that close to such an extreme pace. Notwithstanding 9-1 odds, Miller said he was not surprised.

“He’d been training well, and we had gelded him,” Miller said. “I was thinking he would run a big race.”

Smoking G won by a length with an 86 Beyer Speed Figure that is the highest in the field Sunday.

The maiden win prompted Miller and owners Gary and Cecil Barber to enter Smoking G against Drill and Creative Cause last week in the Grade 2 San Vicente. He scratched.

“We just thought this would be an easier spot,” Miller said. “I think he stacks up good.”

Martin Garcia rides Smoking G, whose odds will be considerably shorter Sunday than they were in the maiden race. And the son of Smoke Glacken will have the jump on his main rival, who is the class of the field.

Stoney Fleece has won 4 of 8 and has been freshened since an ambitious campaign early this meet. Stoney Fleece finished fifth in a $100,000 dirt stakes for statebreds Dec. 26 and then wheeled back five days later on grass, his best surface. Lacking pizzazz, Stoney Fleece finished a flat third in the $81,000 Eddie Logan Stakes at one mile.

Stoney Fleece, who is trained by John Sadler, benefits from two months between starts. Joel Rosario rides the colt, who previously won the Grade 3 Generous Stakes at Hollywood Park in November. Stoney Fleece is the most likely winner of the Baffle.

Other starters include comebacker Brigand, allowance upset winner Loukas, Passing Game, Hodge, Major Magic, and Tones.